The old adage goes, “all good things come to an end,” and that’s certainly the case for New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. The 43-year-old Yankees pitcher is just days away from his final pitch in pinstripes, as he announced before the 2013 season began that this season would, in fact, be his last.
In fact, “good” doesn’t even begin to describe Rivera. As undoubtedly the greatest relief pitcher of all time, Rivera has recorded 652 career saves (not counting his 42 career postseason saves, another MLB record). Perhaps even more impressively, consider this: More people have walked on the moon (12) than have scored on Rivera in the postseason (11). The list of accolades and accomplishments goes on and on, but I think you can begin to understand and appreciate all that Rivera encompasses.
Rivera has been on a “farewell tour” throughout the 2013 season, traveling from city to city, ballpark to ballpark, for the last time. Throughout the season, Rivera has made note of embracing each and every moment from his final season, receiving farewell gifts from different teams and signing as many autographs for the fans as possible.
From the time I began watching my beloved Yankees at age nine, I’ve only known one name when it comes to the ninth inning of a ball game: Mariano “Mo” Rivera. In just a few short days, that name will no longer be the one called upon at the end of a ball game. And, to be honest, it’s a huge loss for not just the Yankees, but the entire sport of baseball.
Rivera, who has played for the Yankees for the entirety of his 19-year career, is known for more than a few things. But his consistency, professionalism and seemingly unhittable, yet innovative, cut-fastball top the list.
He’s dominant but he’s humble. His words are soft-spoken, but his presence is intimidating. In short, Rivera embodies everything that is right with the sport of baseball, and that’s why his retirement, of all players, stands out among the rest.
Despite the fact that he pitched in an era dominated by steroid use and home run hitters, Rivera reigned superior. Opposing teams and hitters knew that they only had eight innings to score runs against the Yankees because, when it came to the ninth inning, you didn’t want to take your chances against Mo.
Whether you’re a Yankees fan or not, you have to respect Rivera for not only the accomplishments he’s had on the field, but also the way he’s carried and conducted himself off the field.
During the ninth inning of a 9-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 15, Rivera signed the bullpen wall at Fenway Park with the following inscription: “Mariano Rivera. Last to wear #42. Thanks for everything.” This, of course, was only a few hours after the Red Sox gave farewell gifts to Mo and even played a tribute video on the scoreboard for him. If those actions don’t speak volumes to the type of person that Mo is, then I don’t know what does.
On Sept. 22 at Yankee Stadium, the team and fans alike celebrated “Mariano Rivera Day.” The Yankees even retired Rivera’s No. 42 jersey, something that usually happens after a player retires, not before.
Rivera won’t just be the last Yankee to ever wear No. 42, he’ll be the last MLB player in general to ever to wear the number, as it has since been retired in respect to Jackie Robinson.
With each passing minute, we’re closer and closer to the retirement of one of the most celebrated and accomplished players in the history of baseball, and that’s saying a lot. While it’s certainly not easy for me, or any baseball fan, to come to terms with Mo’s retirement, it’s certainly not a moment to be sad. Instead, Rivera’s retirement should be a time of celebration.
My dad, who instilled my love of baseball into the core of me, once explained that the end of something, such as death or, in this case, retirement, isn’t something to be sad about.
Instead, you should be happy that something as brilliant as Mo’s career even became possible, because he sure has done a lot of good for the game of baseball and has created a lot of everlasting memories.
So this one’s for you, Mo. Thanks for all the memories. Thanks for being an exemplary role model of what a baseball player should be. And most importantly, thanks for being you.