By Sweeny Murti
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Concluding our conversation with Mariano Rivera about 10 defining moments in his career:
This week we have looked back at memorable games and achievements during Rivera’s career. Today we look at two moments where the fans had the chance to express their feelings directly to Mariano and how deeply it affected him.
Sept 19, 2011: Becoming The All-Time Saves Leader
It was a formality more than anything else. Rivera had for years already been considered the greatest closer of all-time. And when he moved past Trevor Hoffman with save No. 602, it was finally safe to remove the word “arguably” from any of those discussions.
Rivera tried to treat the final out like any other game, by shaking hands with his teammates and congratulating each other on another victory. His long-time teammates Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez had other ideas, pushing Rivera back onto the mound so he could soak in the applause—alone.
“Those moments, personal stuff—I don’t look for that,” Rivera said. “I always say I can never accomplish these things without my teammates. 602 saves for all these teams that I have played. WE accomplished that, not just me. The rest of the team (did too). I can’t say ‘I did’ or ‘I accomplished.’”
As the crowd stood and roared, it certainly seemed that Rivera was uncomfortable being on a pitcher’s mound, perhaps for the first time in his life.
“I didn’t want to be there. It was a different feeling. What are we doing here? We won the game, that’s it, move on.
“It was a weird feeling, a great feeling, but it was weird. I’m not used to that. When it comes to myself, it’s difficult for me to talk about. Don’t get me wrong, not that I don’t feel good about it, but it didn’t make me different because I have 602 saves. I’m still the same guy.”
And maybe that’s another reason why players and fans alike respect and adore him so much.
A similar moment occurred in a different setting only a few months ago.
July 16, 2013: The Final All-Star Game
Because there was not going to be a bottom of the ninth, American League manager Jim Leyland wisely brought Rivera in for the eighth, and after Neil Diamond’s rendition of Sweet Caroline cleared the field, it became an almost perfect setting.
The bullpen door swung open and the Citi Field PA system cranked up Enter Sandman. When Rivera got to the mound, he noticed that his AL teammates had not yet taken the field. And everyone in the stadium was now standing and cheering. Even the players.
“Me alone there. It was amazing,” Rivera said. “Yes, it was different stadium, same city, but different stadium and different players, not all my teammates. All of the players standing on their feet, clapping and cheering, and the fans the same way…50,000 people, it was amazing. I could never imagine it happening that way. I don’t think you could write something like that to be so perfect. To me that was the touch of God, the touch of the Lord.”
Rivera never sounds preachy when he says such things. He sounds as sincere as any man you have ever met. And in discussing his career, his achievements, his place in history—and everything else—Rivera truly sounds like a man who is humbled by all the attention he is getting at the end.
“I’m not a guy that’s going to talk about himself,” Rivera said. “It’s weird for me. I do appreciate it and to know the organization doing such a thing for me is humbling, knowing they appreciate what you do. And that’s what I care about. I appreciate the people that appreciate what I do there. Because I don’t feel I’m different than others. I’ve just been blessed being with a great organization and (playing with) great players and have opportunities to be able to do these things, but that doesn’t mean I’m better than anyone else.
“I’m just a man. I’m a simple man that bleeds and has necessities like the others. That’s why to me it’s been difficult. It’s been hard for me this year, because I’m not like that—interviews and all that stuff, they can have that, you guys can have that,” Rivera says with a laugh.
It is certainly a privilege for all of us to say that we have watched the great Mariano Rivera.
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