Mariano Rivera is almost certainly the best relief pitcher in the history of baseball and arguably the sport’s most dominant pitcher ever. He has the most saves in MLB history with 635 and his career ERA and WHIP are a tidy 2.20 and 1.00. After 18 years, Rivera is calling it quits after this season and retiring at the age of 43.
For that reason, a number of MLB teams have decided to honor the Yanks’ closer with a farewell gift as he makes it to each stadium for the last time.
Back in April, the Yankees and Mo made a trip to Detroit to play the Tigers, where manager Jim Leyland presented Rivera with a plaque display of him pitching at both Tiger Stadium and Comerica Park. The plaque also encases two glass bottles that hold dirt from the pitcher’s mound at both stadiums.
In late May, Rivera made his last trip to Citi Field to play the Mets. COO and part-owner Jeff Wilpon wanted to honor the New York sports icon, so he let him throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the game. The catcher for the pitch was Mets saves leader John Franco. It was a great moment between two all-time great closers.
Two weeks ago, the Yankees went to Oakland during a road trip to to play the A’s. Mo was presented with a customized surfboard with his name and number on it that has a yellow and green trim so he’ll never forget what team it came from. They also gave Rivera a local wine with his uniform number and a special design engraved in it to commemorate the three-game series that would be his last in Oakland and presented him with a check for $10,042 to his foundation, the 42 at the end a nod to his number.
Yesterday, the Minnesota Twins gave Rivera a rocking chair. The armrests and backrest are made out of bats that were broken by Rivera pithces over the years. On the backrest is a plaque, which succintly reads, “Chair Of Broken Dreams.”
But Rivera isn’t a selfish man. He’s made sure to give back to each city he’s travelled to over the course of the season.
In Cleveland, he met with ushers, ticket salesmen, and custodians at the stadium for more than half an hour, posing for pictures, answering question, and signing baseballs. He told the stadium personnel that he appreciates what they do.
In Oakland, he delivered a pizza to a long-time front office employee named Julie Vasconcellos, who has worked with the team in their mail room for 25 years.
In Kansas City, he met with some locals including the Bressette family, who recently went through a tragedy when a display board at an airport fell on them, badly injuring the mother and two of her children while killing a third.
In Tampa Bay, he met with veterans and active duty soliders at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital before a game.
This just goes to show how classy Mariano Rivera is. Not only is the one of the best players ever to play the game, but he’s also one of the best people ever to play the game. Rivera might receive a lot of gifts from teams this season as his farewell tour continues, but he’s going to give back a whole lot more than he gets.