I love Mariano Rivera—the all time leading “closer” of the New York Yankees. I have loved watching him pitch for many, many years. He spent his entire career with the Yankees and pitched for 19 years. He set all kinds of records and on September 22, 2013, he retired—and the Yankees retired his number—42. Jackie Robinson is Rivera’s hero and his number was 42. With Robinson’s wife and daughter and with his own family present, Rivera, stood with them in the ceremony retiring that esteemed number.
But the story of Mariano Rivera goes much deeper than the fact that he is the world’s best “closer”. He is a man of faith and a man who is loyal and dedicated to his family. In retirement, his focus will be on his family—spending time with his wife (his first and only wife) and his 3 sons. In addition, he is using a major portion of his income and time to build churches in his own neighborhood and in his native country of Panama.
As a child, he made a decision not to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a fisherman. An accident in the ocean took the life of his uncle and he never wanted to return to the ocean. He loved anything that involved a ball—particularly soccer. But, through a series of circumstances, he feels that God led him to baseball.
The international scout for the Yankees saw him as a 19 year old. He was playing short stop. The scout had him move onto the pitcher’s mound—and he said “but I’m not a pitcher”. He threw 9 pitches and the scout said—“that’s enough” and immediately signed him with the Yankees. He spent very little time in the minor leagues before they moved him up to the majors—and the rest is history.
He threw one pitch—ONE PITCH. And very few players could ever hit it. Most of the time it was 3 up and 3 down.
In a year of constant celebration and honoring, he remained humble and gave all the credit for his talent and success to his Lord. In his humble, classy, honorable way, he closed a major chapter of his life with grace. He said, “I am ready”. And he walked onto the field for the last time as Metallica played
“Here Comes the Sandman” one last time for him.
I love Mariano Rivera. I could watch him pitch forever and never get over being moved by his grace, poise, and focus. In life he gives us much to contemplate.
Focus. Be the best at one thing—better than anyone else. Live a life of integrity with humility and grace. Have your priorities in order and do not waver from those priorities. Love. Love life, God, family, career, friends, teammates, and self. And when the time comes, move through the various natural phases of your life with poise, thanksgiving, and honor.
Thank you, Mariano. You have been a role model for many—including me. I am grateful.