The man, the myth, the legend: Mariano Rivera
Baseball has a living legend and he’s right in the back end of the Yankees bullpen.
What is it about Mariano Rivera that has baseball players, managers, coaches, and fans in such awe? He is the greatest closer in the history of the sport and he does it all with one pitch: the cut-fastball.
The pitch comes in like a fastball and at the last second it cuts in fooling batters left and right. I’ve never seen anyone make a pitch like that other than Rivera.
I watched an interview with Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones who talked about Rivera. Jones said that every time he’s gone to face Rivera he would try to change his approach because the last one didn’t work. He ended saying he was running out of options.
His cutter has such a movement on it that it fools batters almost every time. Most of the time the hitter will foul the ball off or pop it up. Even more often the hitter will strike out.
Ask any Yankees fan what it’s like when Rivera comes into the game at home. The bottom of the eight ends in a save situation and everyone looks up at the jumbo tron. There he is who Yankees fans call “God” finishing his warm up tosses. When he’s ready he he carries his glove and walks slowly out of the bullpen and the speakers begin to play Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” to honor the Sandman himself. All Yankees fans stand on their feet and the stadium erupts with cheers. If you look around some fans even take the minute to bow toward the man walking slowly out of the bullpen and beginning his trot toward the mound. Fans will stay on their feet until the game is over feeling confident Rivera will end it.
Rivera works in such away that when he enters the game you feel satisfied knowing that it’s pretty much over. Don’t get me wrong Rivera is of course human and there have been times where batters have gotten the best of him, but if a team has to face him 50 times, Rivera is going to defeat them in at least 48 outings.
What also makes Rivera amazing is that he will be turning 42 in May and he is still pitching like he did in his outing in the ALDS at the age of 25. The only way you can tell that Rivera has been aging is the light gray hairs in his face, and even that at times isn’t very noticeable.
I will always have the same unforgettable memory of Rivera. It was game 7 of the 2003 ALCS vs. the Red Sox. Watching that game in my living room was intense and I could feel the excitement of the fans from my home. When Aaron Boone hit the walk off homer and ESPN showed him trotting around the bases you see a Yankee player kneeling on the pitchers mound. It was Rivera.
The moment was so powerful that every time I watch the replay of Rivera crying in joy and hugging the rubber it puts me to tears. It showed the exhaustion of emotions that went on in that game and the passion Rivera and his teammates had for winning important games. It will be a moment I will tell my future children if they shall exist one day.
What I can also tell them is what it was even like to watch him pitch. He truly is one of a kind. No one will ever come close to what Rivera was capable of doing on the field.
It will be a fun next two seasons for Yankees fans with Rivera in the bullpen as he is just 36 saves away from breaking the all-time saves record. At the pace he is going he could break it either the very end of this season or early next.
Long live Mariano Rivera. May he get his first major league hit in a National League park sometime in the next two seasons. May he always pitch like he’s 25-years old. May he always be in the hearts of the New York Yankees.
I can’t wait to tell my future children and their children what it was like to watch Mariano Rivera pitch. There will never been another player like him.