By Peter Schwartz
» More Columns
Did you really think that Mariano Rivera could stay away from Yankee Stadium?
Not a chance!
The future Hall of Fame closer threw out one of the ceremonial first pitches at the Yankees’ home opener this season and you can be sure he will be back for other Bronx Bombers events in the future.
But on Monday, he was back in the Bronx for another reason.
And it was for another sport.
On a day when New York City FC announced that it will play its inaugural Major League Soccer season at Yankee Stadium in 2015, it was also revealed that baseball’s all-time saves leader would be the team’s first season-ticket holder.
“Even though Mariano will be number one on the list of season-ticket holders, we’ve given him a special account number which is number 42,” said NYCFC Chief Business Officer Tim Pernetti. “We’re thrilled to have Mariano Rivera here with us.”
Rivera, a native of Panama, is a huge soccer fan. In fact, it’s his favorite sport.
“Soccer was and still is my number-one game,” said the future Hall of Famer. “Baseball just got in between.”
Rivera couldn’t be happier that soccer will be a regular attraction at Yankee Stadium next year. The new stadium has hosted some international friendlies since opening in 2009, but now it will serve as NYCFC’s temporary home while it searches for a place to build a soccer-specific stadium somewhere in the five boroughs.
The pitch, not to be confused with pitches that Rivera used to throw, will be set up from left field to the first-base line. The stadium’s seating capacity will be downsized to 33,444 for most matches to bring the facility in line with other MLS stadiums, most of which are soccer specific.
The old Yankee Stadium, both original and renovated, was the home to many soccer games.
The Cosmos played there in 1971 and then again with Pele in 1976. There were also numerous international games played at “The House That Ruth Built,” and now the soccer tradition in the Bronx has moved across the street to the new stadium.
NYCFC season tickets went on sale to the general public at 1 p.m. on Monday, as fans were able to place a deposit by visiting http://www.nycfc.com/ or by calling 1-800-745-3000. But Rivera was given the special honor of getting a jump on everyone else. That puts Mo in unfamiliar territory, as he is known for finishing — not starting!
“I’m proud to be the first one,” said Rivera, who was presented with a large commemorative ticket at the press conference. “I’m used to being the closer … always the last one. I’m a big supporter of the team. I wish the team the best. You guys will have my support. Hopefully many fans will come. In New York City, we have a lot of people that love soccer.”
NYCFC will become the second MLS franchise in the metropolitan area, but it will be the first team to call New York City home. The New York Red Bulls, formerly the NY/NJ MetroStars, played at Giants Stadium from 1996 to 2009 before moving to Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.
While Yankee Stadium had long been rumored as NYCFC’s temporary home, team officials looked around to see if there were any other options. At the end of the day, the decision was made to play at the big ballpark at 161st Street and River Avenue.
That decision was met with two thumbs up from Rivera.
“There’s no place better than that for the NYC team,” said Rivera, who retired from baseball at the end of last season. “Especially the right way … Yankee Stadium.”
But what about his love for soccer? Could he be enticed to suit up? Perhaps NYCFC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna should give him a look!
“The real reason that (Rivera) retired is that Claudio has been coaching him for 20 years,” joked Yankees President Randy Levine. “He’s going to be the striker for New York City Football Club! Just kidding, Mo. Just kidding.”
But just think of the marketing possibilities! What would it be like if No. 42 trotted onto the pitch at Yankee Stadium with “Enter Sandman” blasting?
“I think Mariano probably would sell a lot of tickets if he was playing on this team,” said Pernetti with a smile.
On a serious note, a more fitting role for Rivera with NYCFC would be as a minority owner. New York City Football Club is owned by both Manchester City and the Yankees, but there could always be room for another person in the board room.
“I haven’t been approached with that yet, but if it comes I would have to really consider it,“ said Rivera. “I love the game of soccer and it would be nice for me to be a part of it.”
So, for now, Rivera will be a cheering fan of NYCFC when their first season starts next March. Just like the other fans who buy season tickets, Rivera is getting in on the ground floor. But perhaps he gets a discount for being the first customer.
“Being the first one, there’s some adjustments there,” joked Rivera. “That’s why you got number one.”
For what he did on the field for the Yankees and because of his passion for the sport of soccer, Rivera certainly deserves a huge discount.
If Mo doesn’t get red-carpet treatment, somebody needs to get a red card!
You May Also Be Interested In These Stories