As New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera progresses toward his impending retirement, the tributes and well wishes continue to be offered.
The 43-year-old was honored with a standing ovation in his final MLB All-Star appearance Tuesday night before throwing a perfect eighth inning and being named MVP in the American League's victory.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe wrote that players from both benches applauded as Rivera took his cap off and waved it to all parts of the stadium.
“It was tough. It was special,” said an emotional Rivera. “To see the fans sharing and both teams standing out in the dugout, managers, coaches, players priceless. I’ve never been in a situation like this.”
Rivera credits God and his Christian faith for his successful baseball career, which includes 638 saves, and his peers respect him for his religious devotion.
Tampa Bay’s Ben Zobrist spoke about the emotional moment when Rivera spoke to the room full of All-Stars.
“He has everybody’s respect,” Zobrist told Cafardo. “It was kind of like his chance to say goodbye to this room full of All-Stars and say thank you. He said it’s been a blessing. From what I know about him, that means a lot. He certainly has done the game really well. I think he probably was (emotional), but he wasn’t sobbing."
An article in New York Magazine by Buster Olney reports that on many days, the Yankees’ group of practicing Christians will gather in a side room, away from the clubhouse, to read from the Bible and talk about the Lord.
"Rivera is always among them. He is deeply religious, his relationship with God personal and direct. It was during the 1999 season, while Rivera was pitching against the Atlanta Braves on July 16, that he heard a voice talking to him. 'I am the one who has you here,' the voice told Rivera, the pitcher later recalled. What this meant, Rivera believes, was that 'the only reason I’m here is because He’s my strength. He put me here. Without Him, I’m nothing.’ ”
Rivera told Olney that God is responsible for the inexplicable increase in the velocity of his fastball, which came as the Yankees were preparing to trade him.
The article also relates that before Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against Arizona, Rivera surprised teammates by addressing them in a team meeting. He exhorted them to get him the ball and talked about faith and fate; no matter what happened, it was all in the hands of God. He intended his words to be comforting.
Hours later, the Diamondbacks scored twice in the bottom of the ninth against Rivera to beat the Yankees and win the World Series, the most notable failure of Rivera’s career. Despite the debacle, Rivera maintained his composure and class.
"Most of his successes and failures belong to him, the rest to God. There is nothing ceded to his opponents," Olney wrote.
Rivera describes his gratitude to the Lord in another article in New York Magazine by Lisa Miller.
"Everything I have and everything I became is because of the strength of the Lord, and through him I have accomplished everything," the pitcher said. "Not because of my strength. Only by his love, his mercy, and his strength."
"There was no singular event that led him in this direction. Rather, he says simply, it is something that he always wanted to do," Miller wrote.
Rivera and wife Clara are restoring an old church in New Rochelle, N.Y. They plan to minister through the church, particularly to youths, using the building both as a place of worship and a neighborhood learning center, according to the CBS Sports article.
Mark R. Gornik of Faithandleadership.com wrote that "regardless of denominational ties — or baseball allegiance — all Christians should be interested in Rivera. He is part of a theologically rich movement that is transforming the church today."
Gornik encourages Christian readers to see Rivera play before he retires. "So if you get a chance to see Rivera pitch this summer, thank the Holy Spirit. That is, unless you are with the Angels. Or, of course, the Red Sox."
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