By: Howard Goldin
Bronx, NY---The eagerly awaited ceremony that honored Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer and one of the finest men in MLB history, took place on Sunday afternoon. The event planned by the Vice President of Marketing of the New York Yankees, Debbie Tymon and her staff was, as expected, moving, inspiring, uplifting and done in the classiest manner.
After proclamations from Rep. Jose Serrano and Mayor Michael Bloomberg were read by emcees John Sterling and Michael Kay, the scene shifted to Monument Park in deep center field.
Attention was next directed to the infield where several former Yankees associated with Rivera were introduced. Included were: manager Joe Torre, trainer Gene Monahan, batterymate Jorge Posada, who caught 368 of Rivera’s saves, David Cone, Jeff Nelson, John Wetteland, Rivera’s predecessor as closer, Hideki Matsui, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams.
A short film was shown that saluted Rivera’s career on the giant board in center field. After the film concluded, the former Yankees were joined by the Robinson and Rivera families.
Suddenly, the late Bob Shepard was heard announcing the entrance of Rivera. The band Metallica, on a stage in front of Monument Park was playing Rivera’s entrance theme, “Enter Sandman” with special lyrics for the occasion. As the music played, the legendary closer walked from the Yankee bullpen towards the mound.
After he joined the others, special gifts were presented to the future member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. The visiting Giants in the persons of four of their coaches, Joe Lefebvre, Hensley Muelens, Roberto Kelly and Dave Righetti, all former Yankee players, presented Rivera with a 16X20 watercolor of him pitching in AT&T in San Francisco in 2007, a guitar specially designed by Kirk Hammett of Metallica and donation to the Mariano Rivera Foundation.
Metallica gave to RIvera a touring guitar speaker cabinet.
The NYY Foundation presented a $100,000 check for Rivera’s foundation.
Derek Jeter and Joe Girardi brought out a custom-made baseball bat rocking chair in which Rivera very briefly sat.
Members of the Steinbrenner family presented Rivera with a replica of his retired number placard and a Waterford Crystal replica of his 2013 glove.
The ceremony concluded with words from Rivera, which reflected his genuine humility and unshakeable religious faith. “I would like to start by thanking my good Lord because without him this would not be possible.” He next thanked his wife and sons, “It means a lot when you have your family around you.” He also spoke with gratitude of “mother and father, my teammates, past and present, the San Francisco organization, my beautiful country, Panama, you fans, George Steinbrenner-I love you and I miss you, Jackie Robinson-he has been a hero and an inspiration to me, and America-23 years since I let my country.”
When asked by a reporter if his speech was written in advance, he responded, “I didn’t have anything written, the words were from my heart.”
The admiration in which Rivera is held throughout the baseball community was demonstrated by the reaction of the uniformed Giants during the ceremony. More than 30 were standing in front of their dugout paying rapt attention and applauding often. When the ceremony ended, many, led by hurler Matt Cain, who was standing closest to the field, lifted their caps in salute to the honoree.
The humble man spoke when was asked his reaction to the ceremony, “The whole thing was special. I didn’t expect anything like that. My emotion was surprise at the love of the fans [when I walked out from center field].”
Bernie Williams spoke for many when he described the event, “This organization really knows how to reward its heroes.”