Mariano Rivera: The Greatest of All-Time

March 14, 2013 – On Saturday March 9, Mariano Rivera announced that the 2013 season would be his last.

Rivera made the announcement in a press conference at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa a few hours before the Yankees took on the Atlanta Braves, and it was was difficult not to get caught up in the moment.

With the same grace that Rivera has shown during his 18 years in pinstripes, he informed the world that his career would soon come to an end.

“The tank is almost empty,” said Rivera, who was flanked by his wife, Clara, and two of their children. “The little gas I have left will be for this year. After that, I will empty everything. That’s why it’s my time.”

I consider myself lucky to have been at the historic announcement. For me, the most memorable part of the morning was when the entire Yankees team — including coaches and spring training instructors — walked into the pavilion where the press conference was held. Seeing the sea of Yankees, who took the time out of their training routines to support Rivera, spoke volumes about the respect that the game’s greatest closer has garnered.

“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” Derek Jeter said later that day. “He’s a close friend. It’s difficult to put into words how much he’s meant to our team, but let’s just say, we wouldn’t have had the success we had without him.”

“He’s irreplaceable,” GM Brian Cashman added. “He is the greatest of all time.”

When you look at what Rivera has accomplished, it’s almost impossible to disagree with Jeter or Cashman.

Rivera is the all-time leader in regular season saves with 608 and postseason saves with 42. While Rivera’s 2.39 career ERA in the regular season is impressive, his 0.70 ERA in October is untouchable, especially considering he has pitched in 96 postseason games. Additionally, in 21 of the 32 postseason series Rivera has pitched in, he has not given up a run.

Of course, Rivera has recorded the final outs in four World Series, and in one of my favorite baseball moments, he threw the last pitch at the old Yankee Stadium.

“It’s been a privilege and honor to wear the pinstripes for so many years,” Rivera said. “I’m proud to have been part of so many great times with the Yankees.”

There will be an article about Rivera’s news conference in the April Issue of Yankees Magazine.

Additionally, in a feature story that I have been working on for some time, I will detail a project that means almost as much to Rivera as some of his greatest baseball accomplishments.

Since purchasing a deteriorating church in New Rochelle, New York, Rivera has worked diligently to re-build it. The 122-year old building, which is located on North Avenue in the Westchester County suburb, has not been in use for almost 30 years. Rivera raised and donated enough money to fund a construction project, which will ultimately restore the church. The Yanks closer has overseen virtually every detail of the church’s renovation since day one, and the building is scheduled to begin serving as a house of worship, day-care center and after-school destination this summer.

Rivera, who has also built churches in his native Panama, spent more than an hour with me discussing this meaningful project during spring training.

“The town needed a church for everyone to congregate at,” Rivera said. “With all that the Lord has done for me, this was the least I could do. When I first saw the church, it was beat up. But all I saw was the beauty of the church. The stone and the woodwork really stood out, even though the church had been vacant for about thirty years. I knew I wanted to buy the church as soon as I saw it.”

The feature on the soon-to-be-opened Pentecostal church will be published in the July Issue of Yankees Magazine — about a month after the house of worship is scheduled to officially open it’s doors.

Until then, Rivera will be writing the final chapter of one of the greatest careers in baseball history.

–Alfred Santasiere III

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