Friday, March 30, 2012


When Mariano had to cut the grass in Panama he used a machete since he didn't have a lawn mower-Fennelly, TBO

3/30/12, "Rivera's records only part of his success story,", Tampa Tribune, Martin Fennelly

The fisherman's son, baseball's all-time saves leader, its greatest closer, one of its great men, is sitting at his locker one morning in the Yankees clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Teammates are arriving. As they pass Mariano Rivera, they say hello or pat his shoulder, and he smiles at them.

"That's just the love," Rivera said.

There are hundreds of major-league hitters, whose at-bats against the ever-peaceful Rivera have gone to their graves, who wonder what the secret is, how a man with one pitch, albeit an iconic cut fastball, can remain that unhittable, so relentlessly fabulous for 16 seasons. It's spooky.

Rivera smiled.

Welcome to Mo's.

"There's no trick. If people think there's magic, they'll be disappointed," the 42-year-old Rivera said. He's a devout Christian. "Everybody always wants to explain it. Let me tell you something, I want you to write this down. No one taught me that pitch. No one grabbed me and told me how to throw the cutter, no man — no one but God. It belongs to the Lord. I didn't have the talent of those young boys who throw 96, 97. I was throwing 87, 88, maybe. I was 20 years old, I'd never pitched before. You're telling me it was just my talent? God put his hand on me."

It's an extraordinary tale, even in Yankees annals, where legends are stacked like cords of wood.

"No. 1," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said before spring training. "What Mariano Rivera has done … it's who he is as a person, it's what he has done as a player with one pitch, coming out of a small fishing village in Panama, coming to the biggest media market in the world and playing the game of baseball, being the greatest of all time, and for as long he's done it, there isn't a story close to that, what he's done and what he's meant to this franchise."

The question, asked these last few springs, is: When will the great Rivera step down? He's first-ballot Cooperstown. He has 603 saves, including the 60 he has converted against the Rays — in 61 chances. He owns five World Series rings. His 42 postseason saves, 11 in the Series, with a 0.70 ERA, are more than records, they're extraterrestrial sign posts. What's left?

Rivera has had fun this spring with the New York media, which makes allowances for Mo. The retirement thing, it's going to be a "chess" game, he tells them. He says he will pitch until "the good Lord says enough is enough. I don't want to stay too long. I don't want to be ordinary." Rivera has thrown six innings this month, allowing no runs, one hit.

Former Rays and Yankees catcher John Flaherty, now a Yankees TV analyst, remembers his first at-bat against Rivera.

"I'm on deck, thinking this guy is perfect for me, fastballs, nice and easy. If I can't hit this guy I'm in trouble. Then you get up there and you can't believe how the ball jumps on you.

"Then you catch him. It's how he locates, he watches swings against him, how he's smart. ... The mental part is the most impressive. And he never changes expression. And then you go in the clubhouse and he still doesn't change expression. He's the same guy … the same guy … every day. It's almost annoying."

Yankees pitching coach and former Rays manager Larry Rothschild knew Rivera was good, but now, on the inside, it's ridiculous.

"Someone can tell you how great a wine is, but until you taste it, you just don't know," Rothschild said.

The fisherman's son was raised on the coast of Panama. Rivera, who will earn $15 million this season, grew up poor.

""I didn't have anything. One pair of shoes and you better watch it, if you break them, there (isn't) going to be any more. My father is at sea, working to bring food to the table. I'm helping my mother. You cut the lawn, when you cut it, not a mower,

He says that his calm, his peace, it's no fake, no trick.

"That comes from knowing where you come from, knowing who you are, knowing who you trust," Rivera said. "I'm a simple man. What I don't control, I don't worry about, success or failure. My head hits the pillow, I say I did my best. I live for the moment, because that's all we have. Tomorrow isn't promised."

He tells of his friend and former Yankees teammate Enrique Wilson. When New York lost Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, a rare Rivera blown save, Wilson, who had planned to stay for a victory parade, changed to an earlier flight home to the Dominican Republic. The flight Wilson was originally scheduled to take crashed in a New York City neighborhood, killing all 260 people on board.

"(He's) more precious than 20 World Series — I wouldn't trade them for my friend, for a life," Rivera said.

No. 42 described the day he found his cutter. He says he had nothing to do with it.

"In 1996, I was a set-up man. I was throwing a fastball rising up. Then I became the closer. To be a closer in New York, where everything is big, I needed something else to be able to succeed …

"The first week or two I struggled. But the Lord knew that. He knew. I was playing catch with Ramiro Mendoza, a fellow Panamanian. I'm grabbing the ball the same way I had for so many years, but all of a sudden, it was cutting. I didn't do anything to it. The ball, out of nowhere, it starts cutting. You're going to tell me I did that? Me ? The Lord knew, that's what I say, it was the Lord."

The fisherman's son has known his wife since they were children. They have three sons. Rivera does a lot of charity work in New York. He's helping renovate a church. He finances elementary schools and churches in Panama. "I just do it because of the desire the Lord has given me," he said. At Christmas, Rivera hands presents to hundreds of children.

"I don't go to towns. I don't go to the cities. I go to the mountains, where no one goes. No roads, just dirt. I'm going to the mountains and I get in those fields and we spread the word and when you see those kids coming out of the trees, running toward you, it's amazing, bare feet, barely with clothes, sometimes even naked. When we're finished, all the presents handed out, you're exhausted. And then your heart says let's do it again."

He is out of the mountains, again ready to climb the mound. He isn't ready to be remembered just yet, but was asked what he'd like people to say.

"This was a man who always gave the best, for his team, for his peers, for others, and he himself was always last," Rivera said. "When people say I'm the best, I think no, I'm just blessed. Why did the Lord choose me? I think he sees your heart. He doesn't see your beauty, your size, how strong, he sees your heart. This is God's work."

That's just the love."


4/2/12, "Yankees closer Rivera took unbelievable journey," Joel Sherman, NY Post

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