01 Aug Getting to Know Mariano Rivera
YANKEES’ MARIANO RIVERA WAS THE FIRST PLAYER UNANIMOUSLY VOTED INTO BASEBALL HALL OF FAME. HE WAS INDUCTED SUNDAY, JULY 21ST.
Mariano Rivera is universally regarded as the greatest closer of all time. Mariano Rivera
is a thirteen-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion. He was MLB’s career
leader in saves (652) and games finished (952). Rivera won five American League (AL)
Rolaids Relief Man Awards and three Delivery Man of the Year Awards, and he finished
in the top three in voting for the AL CY Young Award four times. He was elected to the
Baseball Hall of Fame in its class of 2019 in his first year of eligibility, and was the first
player ever to be elected unanimously by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA). This coming Sunday, July 21, New York Yankees icon Mariano Rivera, 49, will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as the first player to be unanimously picked.
Name: Mariano Rivera
Nickname: Mo and Sandman
Uniform Number: 42
Born: November 29, 1969 (age 49) in Panama City, Panama MLB debut: May 23, 1995, for the New York Yankees
Last MLB appearance: September 26, 2013, for the New York Yankees
Win–loss record: 82–60
Earned run average: 2.21
Played for the New York
Song Rivera came into a game with: Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”
What was the feeling like when you got the call that you were going into the Hall of Fame unanimously?
It was amazing. It’s hard to put into words. I was with my family. I got the call that I made the hall and I was very excited. Than they told me it was unanimous
and my family went nuts. The only thing I can compare it to was when we won the World Series.
Why did your manager Joe Torre make you a closer in 1997?
What made that happen was the 1996 season. I remember at the beginning of the year I was a long reliever. But everything fell into place. As a long reliever, it is hard for the manager to see you. Everything that has happened around me, God permitted. The more I pitched as a long reliever, I pitched good. That allowed me to become the set-up man. That was the key.
Did you ever doubt that you could close games?
The first month as a closer was hard. I was trying so hard to do the job that it was impossible for me to do it. I remember Joe calling me into his office and he said, “It doesn’t matter what happens, you will be my closer.” I mean you know and I know and everybody knows this, if I didn’t do my job, I wouldn’t be the closer. But I took those words as so encouraging that it was different. I had 43 saves that year. After that year I never had any doubts.
What would you say is the secret of the closer mentality?
You have to have a short memory, you have to be able to bounce back when you need to bounce back, and remain focused. I think those tools are more important than your pitches. Because you’re going to fail. Sooner or later, you’re going to fail. And you’re going to face that. You don’t think about it. You can’t change the past, and it has passed already. So just leave it the way it is. Just go to the moment, and know tomorrow brings a new opportunity, a new game, and with that there are new challenges. So you have to get ready for that.
What do you miss most about playing the game?
Just being on the field with my teammates. And playing the game. That’s it. I think you
always, as a player, will miss that.
Many people call you the greatest of all-time. How do you want to be remembered?
First of all, I don’t feel I’m the greatest of all-time. The reason I say that is because
I’m a team player. If it wasn’t for my teammates, I would never had the opportunities. But I would love to be remembered as a player who was always there for others. Trying to make them better. Didn’t think about himself at all. That’s the legacy that I want to leave. That I was there for others.
Who would you say is the hardest batter you ever faced?
Edgar Martinez always gave me a very hard time. He was tough. You have had so much
success, World Series rings, All-Star Games and 600 saves.
What has the sacrifice been to your family?
Without the support of my family, I don’t see how I would have accomplished any of this. My family has played a BIG role.
What was your favorite moment of your career?
My favorite moment, was the 2009 World Series. The reason I say that is because my family was able to travel with me, since we were playing in New York and in Philly. My kids were old enough to enjoy it. The other World Series, when we won, they were small.
Playing in New York, do you have any Jewish friends?
I have rabbis and friends who are Jewish that are amazing, beautiful people. I went to Israel twice, once in 2015 & once in 2018 with a few friends of mine that are rabbis; to me, that was fascinating. We had a great time, and we’re working to do it again. Most of them were from New York. The trips were about going to Israel and understand what Israel is all about. Every time I go to Israel, it blows my mind. I want to see more, I want to understand more. I wanted to learn more. The Bible comes to life when you’re there. I believe that part of me is Jewish. I have to take a DNA test to see where my family
came from, where I come from—all that stuff because I truly believe there’s something in me that just moves me to have something special for the Jewish community and Israel. (Last week, Rivera was at the annual Christians United For Israel summit in Washington, a gathering of the largest pro-Israel group in the United States).