MIAMI — Tragic Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez made the last few months of his short life count.
The 24-year-old Major League Baseball star, who died with two friends early Sunday when his fishing boat crashed into a jetty at a high rate of speed, broke off his engagement then started a new relationship that blossomed in the new live-in girlfriend’s pregnancy, the DailyMailOnline has learned.
According to several family members, Fernandez’s new girlfriend was identified as Maria Arias, 24, a former college psychology major who is due to deliver the pitching ace’s baby in February.
She became pregnant, her family says, within weeks of starting to date Fernandez.
“He wanted to name the baby girl Penelope,” said Magaly Junco, who is married to a cousin Arias’ and once lived with her. “She is due in February and they were living together in his apartment in downtown Miami. They were very excited about having a baby.”
Via text message, Arias declined to comment about Fernandez and the baby.
Arias, Junco said, had met Fernandez through her sister’s husband, Jessie Garcia, a professional deep sea fisherman who had become Fernandez’ best friend.
But before he could jump into a relationship with the raven-haired Arias, Fernandez broke up his engagement to former Miami Marlins cheerleader Carla Mendoza.
Despite the lingering bitterness, the 24-year-old Mendoza’s relatives said they were still fond of the lanky ball player.
“Jose was a very good man,” said Carlota Mendoza, the ex-cheerleader’s grandmother, from her home in Puerto Rico.
“He was fun to be around,” said Carla’s mother, Maria Lourdes Reyes.
Then in April, the beloved Cuba-born pitcher and the beautiful nursing student broke up.
“She was devastated,” Reyes said, “and now, she is devastated again.”
Fernandez and Mendoza started dating three years ago, both her grandma and her mom say, when he became a trainee in the Marlins organization and she worked as a cheerleader.
“They started talking when they saw one another at the stadium and they started dating,” Reyes said.
In time, Mendoza was fired because cheerleaders are not supposed to date players.
“They didn’t tell anybody but the team figured it out,” Reyes said.
In November, Reyes said, Fernandez promised to marry her. But soon, they started arguing about the timing.
“She wanted to get married after she graduated from nursing school in May 2017,” Reyes said. “Jose said his agent didn’t want him to get married until he got a new contract in two years. He just wanted to wait longer than she was willing to wait.
“They started to argue quite a bit.”
There was also the fact Fernandez wanted to spend more time fishing and hanging out with his friends than with her. Grandma Mendoza described how the fiancée found herself too alone too often.
“He was fishing too much, and playing all the time and traveling,” Carlota Mendoza said. “She was always alone.”
The break up was abrupt, and the ex-lovebirds stopped communicating. However, Reyes said, Fernandez’ mother asked Mendoza to help her cope with her son’s death. Both Mendoza and Arias were at the mother’s house in Miami hours after his death.
Authorities said speed in near total darkness was a factor shortly after 2 a.m. Sunday, when an open cabin fishing boat, Kaught Looking, owned by Fernandez slammed into a jetty near Miami.
Fernandez and two high school friends, banker Emilio Macias, 27, and Carnival Cruise Lines sales rep Eduardo Rivero, 25, died on impact. There was no other passenger onboard.
Fernandez was scheduled to pitch Monday night at home against the New York Mets. Instead, his teammates honored Fernandez’ memory with a pre-game ritual that included signing their names in the pitcher’s mount dirt then shellacking the Mets 7-3.
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