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By Sweeny Murti
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Since it doesn’t seem like we will be able to get enough of Mariano Rivera this year, here’s a little more.
I wrote here earlier about how one of my favorite memories of Rivera was watching him hold court with all the younger Spanish-speaking players. On most mornings in spring training, they could be found circling his locker like kindergartners, sitting on the ground while Rivera sat in his chair, looking as if he was leading Mr. Rivera’s Story Hour.
When I think of Mo’s leadership, this is the image that strikes me. His presence is so great that the younger players are literally at his feet trying to soak up all the knowledge they can. And it’s not just with the Spanish-speaking players, although they do seem to look up to him in a different way than others. I’ve been told by everyone from Randy Choate to David Robertson what a great teacher Rivera is in the bullpen, talking about everything from mental preparation to game plan to execution.
The topic came up again on Tuesday morning as Rivera spoke to reporters about mentoring Ivan Nova through his struggles last year. When Rivera was asked who did things like that for him when he first came up, the answer was a bit surprising: Steve Howe.
Rivera has spoken before about John Wetteland’s influence, and I’m sure he’s mentioned Howe in some conversation I’ve had with him over the last dozen years. But it’s interesting to hear the way he talks about Howe now, and the importance that Rivera places on passing on his wisdom as much as he can. He spoke during last Saturday’s press conference about wanting to work with the minor-league pitchers in some way in the future. They’d all be wise to listen to him.
Meanwhile, I thought about how ridiculously easy it must be to be Mo’s pitching coach. I asked Ron Guidry, who served in that role for two years in the major leagues, and he said it was usually as simple as reminding him every once in a while to keep his front shoulder in, an occasional adjustment here and there. Otherwise, it was just about as easy a job as you could want.
Guidry went on to tell me about the first time he saw Rivera. It was in spring training 1993 in Fort Lauderdale:
There are sure to be many more Rivera stories to come between now and the end of the season. I don’t believe they will get old.
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Steve Howe? There’s your shocking fun fact for the day. Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…