Words by Jesse Serwer—
With the regular season of Major League Baseball coming to an end, we just had to LargeUp the greatest closer in baseball history, Mariano Rivera, as he heads into retirement following 18 impeccable, history-making seasons with the New York Yankees.
Watching Mariano play this year, after announcing that this season would be his last, one thing became clear: he was the best-loved player in his sport. The response he received not just from his hometown fans in New York, for whom he helped deliver five World Series titles, but from opposing fans whose teams he had consistently shut down, told the whole story, as each city honored Mariano with the sincerest respect and appreciation. Let’s see if Alex Rodriguez gets that kind of welcome when he decides to quit!
What these fans responded to, above all, was Rivera’s character. Mariano will go down as one of the greats for his play on the field, and his behavior off of it. The product of Puerto Caimito, Panama represented his homeland well. One of of seven active Major League baseball players from Panama as of the just-ended 2013 season, Rivera had a major impact on baseball, and sports in general, in his home country. Although there is a long history of Major League ballplayers from Panama including Hall of Famer Rod Carew, one Panamanian player, former Yankees ourfielder and current San Francisco Giants coach Roberto Kelly, went so far as to credit Rivera for “put[ting] Panama baseball on the map,” noting the arrival of the Panamanian Professional Baseball League two years ago, among other advancements.
Last week’s “Mariano Rivera Day” tribute brought five TV stations from Panama to Yankee Stadium, along with president Ricardo Martinelli, and, of course, a large presence from New York’s Panamanian community.
We have to commend The New York Post on their coverage of Rivera and his retirement. The paper recently sent a photographer to Puerto Caimito, documenting life in the small town where the pitching great got his start. Check out a few pics below, and see the full piece here. And once again, LargeUp, Mariano Rivera. May the Sandman finally get some rest.