David Sexton – ESPN recently celebrated the career of New York Yankee closer Mariano Rivera with an oral history of the of all-time saves leader. The most decorated closer in MLB history is retiring at the end of this season.
Other media have been commemorating the pitcher’s career. The Associated Press ran an uplifting piece chronicling Rivera’s rise to greatness from poor Panamanian fishing village roots.
Mariano Rivera is the pride Puerto Caimito, a town of about 12,000 in the Province of Panama, twenty-five miles west of the capital, where children used to make baseballs out of fish nets and mitts out of milk cartons.
The AP article recounts a young Rivera who was witness to a fishing accident that killed his uncle and caused him injury to his mouth and chest. From the point on, Rivera shied away from the family business and played more baseball.
While representing a local Panamanian club during its 1995 season, a Latin American talent scout from New York discovered Rivera’s raw talent and signed him to the Yankees for US$3000. It took Rivera only a few years to become the official closer for the most important team in professional baseball. Over the course of 19 seasons – playing in a position known for volatility and short careers – Rivera racked up five World Series and thirteen All Star Game appearances.
Despite becoming the most feared and greatest closer in the game…despite becoming one of the most marketable personalities in sports… Rivera has always remained humble, surely a reflection of his Panamanian roots. Rivera’s cutter well known–legendary, in fact. Off the mound, the pitcher is known for his charity work and unshakable Christian faith. He’s also known for knowing his wife since elementary school back in Panama.
Of his job, Rivera once said: “I get the ball, I throw the ball, and then I take a shower.” Despite this characteristic simplicity, Mariano Rivera will go down in history as baseball’s greatest closer and will be included in discussions of all-time great athletes such as Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretsky, and Tiger Woods.
Former teammate Eric Chavez said of Rivera: “To go through major league hitters and dominate for all those years, it’s one of the greatest feats I’ll ever look back on… I don’t think people realize how incredible it really is. It will never be duplicated, ever.”
The pride of Puerto Caimito plans to focus on his charitable foundation and during his well-deserved retirement.