What is on my mind is the farewell of Major League Baseball’s greatest relief pitcher of all time, Mariano Rivera.
Rivera, or Mo, as many loyal fans would call him, was my hero — along with Derek Jeter, Andy Pettite and Jorge Posada. They were and still are my favorite team and my favorite players.
However, I knew something special was happening as I watched Rivera’s career progress over the years. He truly was untouchable.
Breaking into the league in 1995, Rivera was just another 25-year-old rookie trying to follow his dreams. Struggling with his velocity and recovering from reconstructive arm surgery, Rivera was almost traded to the Detroit Tigers for David Wells.
Luckily, the Yankee gods watched over Mo to make sure he stayed put in New York. They must have known what was to come.
Coming into the 1996 season, Rivera was making the transition from starting pitcher to set-up man, according to bleacherreport.com. With the Yankees acquiring new arms and faces, Rivera’s role as a starting pitcher was no longer needed; ultimately leading to his huge success in the league.
Rocking out the set-up role, Rivera had his first break out season and finished third in the Cy Young Award voting that year, according to bleacherreport.com. He was also a part and contributed to the Yankees first World Series win since 1978 in which they beat the Braves in six games to win the title.
Rivera hurled 5.2 innings with an ERA of 1.59, according to bleacherreport.com.
With the departure of closer John Wetteland after the 1996 championship season, Rivera took the spot as the closer.
Accumulating five world championships, a World Series MVP award, an American League Championship Series MVP award, 13 All-Star selections, multiple pitching awards and the lowest ERA in postseason history all the while withstanding the pressure and coming off as almost impermeable to postseason drama, Mo was the best in the league.
Yet, as warming as that statement may be, we the fans, already knew this.
Even a RedSox fan will admit to it. Mo was a household name.
Even more so he was a role model to me. I wanted to be him.
He was a class act and played the game the right way — you do not see much of that in the game today.
I do not think there will ever be another Mariano Rivera. It is impossible.
Never again in Major League Baseball will we see a man stand on that mound in the ninth inning with the team on his back and hurl a 95 mph cut fastball tailing away from the right-handed hitters and moving fearlessly in on the hands of left-handed batters.
Rivera deserves to stand alone in that category, never to be challenged. He is already a baseball god and he has only been retired for a maximum of three weeks. Someday, definitely sooner than later, Mo will make his way to Cooperstown, N.Y., where he will take his place in paradise with the rest of the baseball greats and sit on his throne as the greatest closer of all time.
It truly brought tears to my eyes as I watched Rivera throw his last pitch at Yankee Stadium against the Tampa Bay Rays, a game thst the Yankees lost.
It only seemed right to have Jeter and Pettite fetch their longtime pal from the mound — something that had never been done before.
He gave all he had for years, and now it was time for him to go.
It was a weary feeling, but everyone has their swan song.
Mine was the realization that over the course of Rivera’s career I had grown up to be the man I am today — and I like to think in some slight way — Mo played a part in that.