“The Closer” Mariano Rivera

By Rich Mancuso

Mariano Rivera has not disappeared since his last appearance on the mound for the New York Yankees and his first book, “The Closer-his story” that was recently released, brings a baseball fan closer to his outstanding contributions to the game of baseball.

Why does this book have that reach to an average baseball, Yankees fan, or someone not in tune with the life of a relief pitcher? Simple, in that his story offers a compelling and emotional   behind the scenes tour of the all-time best relief pitcher in the game, whereas other books try the same approach, but this is Mariano Rivera.

And the name, so well known to an average baseball fan or not, provides the intrigue as to how the son of a Panama fisherman became so successful.

There are so many stories chronicled over the years about baseball, and the players who have contributed valuable moments to the game. And there are books that go inside the clubhouse and take us on the field. Rivera, the all-time leading closer in the game does it differently. It’s not how he chronicles situations and various accounts of an incredible career with co-author Wayne Coffey.

It is how the emotion of his story becomes a personal touch of Mariano Rivera to the reader.

This writer recalls the time when Rivera debuted in the Yankees clubhouse. The grand old and historic Yankee Stadium that is now a community park, across the street from the billion dollar new home known as Yankee Stadium. It is Marino Rivera telling his story. The day he arrived as the newest ballplayer in town and how he would become one of the greatest all-time pitchers to wear the Yankees pinstripes.

But, Rivera was not the Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle or any of the other great sluggers that made baseball fame as a New York Yankee. He was the modern era relief pitcher that has become so significant to a team that continued to add to a franchise legacy of championships.

The teammates become his fraternity, his family, wife (Clara) and three sons are a part of this amazing journey. And his religious faith, perhaps saturated a bit much, adds to the amazing journey. 

“When I see Alex I go right over and give him a hug,” writes the thirteen-time all-star and five-time world champion. He recalls the moment when Alex Rodriguez, the teammate and in time of a steroid related controversy, returns to Yankee Stadium after filing his appeal of a season long suspension handed down by Major League Baseball.

You learn the side of Mariano Rivera, his objection of how A-Rod did wrong but offers support and forgiveness for his faults. As Rivera says, the teammates are his family but those who harm themselves and the game by cheating, the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs, he can’t offer his support.

“He’s as smart a ballplayer as I’ve ever played with,” states Rivera about Rodriguez. “It’s why it’s so hard to understand some of the decisions he has made, not just with performance-enhancing drugs but in his spotlight-seeking ways. It’s not enough to be an all-time great player, it seems.  He wants to be at the top of everything.”

Rivera adds: “He wants to be the best, look the best, get the most attention, and all it does is make him baseball’s No. 1 whipping boy.”

We, as reporters on the baseball beat, as many times posing questions to Rivera, never heard these statements about the teammate that became so controversial. More reason as to why this account and many others have put “The Closer” in a category of its own when compared to others.

In contrast, Rivera has his accounts of being a member of the “Core Four” of himself, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and the manager Joe Torre, “Mr. T”

“Mr T says, “Mo, do you know what you need to do? You need to be Mariano Rivera. That’s all. Nothing more, nothing less. It looks to us like you’re trying to be perfect.”  Then, Rivera was pressing and became the closer with a fastball and the cutter. The cutter, a pitch that Rivera perfected out of the bullpen, and hence the “Closer” came to fruition.

The accounts, and more leading to the final episode of his last appearance on the mound at Yankee Stadium, and last September when Jeter and Pettitte took the ball from him as the Yankees, Rays, and a packed Yankee Stadium offer their tribute as “Sandman” his entrance music played for the last time.

“Andy holds out his left hand I put the ball in it. I won’t be, needing it anymore,” states Rivera. It was a plan that Derek and Andy had contrived with Torre. Behind the scene accounts that could not be told as we all watched the last days of Mariano Rivera and his last season.

And now, he is at peace. Home with a family he loves, giving his life to the Lord and his community and sending a message of hope with the rebuilt refuge of Hope Church in New Rochelle New York, where all his efforts are now.

Exit Mariano Rivera and a story about “The Closer” and one that may never be told again like this.

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