I don’t think anyone in sports is talking about anything else. As of this morning, Mariano Rivera, the all-time save king, will be retiring following the 2013 season. (You can watch his full press conference from Steinbrenner Field here.) Rivera is a class act and the embodiment of what it means to be a ball player and a Yankee. He will leave behind a role in the clubhouse, not just for his statistics, but his character.
Donning 42 before MLB retired Jackie Robinson’s number across the league in 1997, Rivera has proudly been the final person to wear Robinson’s famous number and deserves as much accolades for representing the uniform and number with class and excellence. Robinson broke the color barrier not just for African-American athletes, but for the many Hispanic and Asian players that now seem to dominate the game. But he did so with integrity and excellence. To honor both men, I will wear my Rivera jersey proudly to see the new movie coming out about Robinson’s life next month.
As far as the little game of baseball that was played at Steinbrenner Field today, ultimately the Braves won 2-1, but no one really cared. There was much bigger news for today. Leading off as the DH today was (as Bob Shepard) “Number two, Derek Jeter… number two.” That’s right, Yankees fans, the Captain having been cleared for active duty is making his way toward the Opening Day start. On the first pitch of the game, Jeter proceeded to knock a line drive through the gap into left field for a very nice single.
The Yankees started prospect Jose Ramirez, who struck out four in four innings and only allowed one hit. And as good as his performance was, it was merely an opener for today’s top story Rivera to throw his 15 pitches in the 5th inning, getting 2 strike-outs and a pop-up. The crowd offered their respect via a standing ovation for his entrance and exit from the field and for every strike and out in between. The beginning of many similar scenes over the next 7 months, I would assume.
Again, I cannot say enough about Rivera. He is a living legend and a credit to both the Yankees and the entire game of professional baseball, if not all professional sports. Like I’ve said before, you must have three things (in my mind) to be considered a good player — ability, teamwork, and character. Rivera definitely fits that and exceeds all basic standards. I can only guess they are already building his plaque for Monument Park and readying his name for the (what should be 100%) first ballot entry to the 2018 class of Hall of Famers. I am truly privileged to have watched him play in person. So I challenge everyone to catch a Yankees game this season and see the legend in action one last time.
Go Yankees! (And Happy Mariano Day!)