So I don’t get to watch a lot of baseball these days but I really, really loved every moment of the All Star Game. And in particular, I loved the ovation that Mariano Rivera got in his last All Star Game. Rivera is the greatest reliever of all time and I was blessed to get to know him a bit when I covered the Yankees in the late 90s.
A quick story: The Yankees had just won the 1996 World Series against the Braves and I looked over at Rivera’s locker. His entire family had gathered around him and they were so excited. Rivera had come a long way. He is from Panama and his family was so starry eyed to be in the World Series locker room.
I approached Mariano and congratulated him and he gave me a quick “man hug”. Unusual for a player to do that to a reporter but he was excited and had been around me for most of the season’s home schedule. I only had one question for him that day:
“Mariano, you’ve come a long way to get to the major leagues. What do you think this means for all those people in Panama who supported you all these years?”
He looked at his family and said, “I’m just glad they are here with me, but you’re right…it means so much. We didn’t have a whole lot, but we had baseball and spending all that time working really paid off for us.”
Notice he said “us” and not merely “me.”
Rivera is also a deeply religious man, I believe Pentecostal, or some other evangelical denomination. But he’s never haughty about his faith. He thanks God often, but he isn’t preachy, or at least he never was around me. We never had a religious conversation. But on this day, he said:
“You know none of this would have been possible without God and my family and friends from Panama gave me my faith!”
And just then out of nowhere, Mariano and his family started cheering and yelling in Spanish about Panama. I couldn’t understand half of it and it was almost angry…their passion for their country was so high.
I almost thought they were speaking in tongues because somehow that pride was understood by me.
As I left him, I smiled and congratulated him again. I think he was still yelling when I left.
So I was glad to see him get that ovation during the game. If you missed it here’s a clip I found on you tube:
While I thought Chris Sale deserved the MVP award for pitching two scoreless innings there was no way they weren’t giving it to MO. Congrats, Sandman.