Ah yes, leave it to me to write yet another sad post. And naturally, it’s about the Yankees.
On Thursday night, September 26th, 2013, Mariano Rivera took the mound for the final time at Yankee Stadium. He is, without a doubt, the greatest closer the game of baseball has ever seen. He is about as close to perfect as a baseball player can get. Just look up his stats. Or refer to the five championship rings he has. His legacy is about the competition and the game, all in it for the team. He announced at the beginning of the 2013 season that he would be retiring at the end of the season, and that day that every fan has been dreading has come. He is still so good at what he does, we can’t help it as fans to be selfish and want him to pitch forever. There is absolutely no one like him, nor will there ever be.
In the time that I have become a Yankee fan, I’ve picked up on what’s always been said about Mo. Sure, he’s incredible on the field, but he’s an even better person off the field. What he does for others, how he never talks about himself, how he can be a humble winner and a gracious loser. He does it all. The way that he is makes even a non-Yankee fan, or non-baseball fan for that matter, root for him. Any athlete or competitor can look at him as an example of what to be. I constantly wish that every player with egos and bad attitudes could just be like him.
Last night, as the Tampa Bay Rays began running away with the lead, the atmosphere in Yankee Stadium changed. Even from watching on TV at home, I could tell that the crowd no longer cared for the game itself. All eyes were on the bullpen and every single person in the stadium was anxiously awaiting the entrance of a legend for the very last time. And in the eighth inning, the building rocked as “Enter Sandman” played one final time. The team was losing, but the cheers were deafening. The silence from the announcers, both teams out of the dugout applauding, and every single person on their feet…the emotion is unexplainable. As a viewer, you could tell how the rest of the game was going to play out. The chances of the team making a comeback and winning were slim to none at this point, so Mariano was going to get two outs of the ninth before a pitching change to walk off the mound to a tribute for the ages. And that’s exactly what happened, except with a twist no one saw coming…
Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte have played with Mariano for almost two decades. They were the ones to make the pitching change. At that moment, the reality of it all, and the finality of it, hit. There was not a dry eye in that stadium, or anywhere where the game was watched. Watching Mariano weep into Andy’s shoulder, and to hear the ovation that he got as he walked off the mound one final time, is a moment that will go down in history. It was one of the most beautiful moments in sports, ever. I commend the broadcasters and media for putting it all into better words than I ever can, all words I wish I could just cut and paste here. And if you don’t feel some kind of emotion watching any of the footage of that moment, you’re not human.
It’s been a privilege to see someone who is a master at what he does, who does it the right way, go out on top. I know this post isn’t’ going to make people realize how much I love him and appreciate him and his contributions to the game, or how much of an influence he’s had on me as a competitor and a person, but I think there are people out there who get it. At least other diehard Yankee fans do. To quote Derek Jeter from last night, “it’s too bad a good thing has to come to an end.” So to the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera…love you Mo. Enter Sandman, exit a legend.
Click the image to watch the video