Saturday, October 18, 2014


Rivera greets fans at new Big Lots in North Bergen

10/17/14, "Enter Sandman: Yankee legend Mariano Rivera greets hundreds of fans at North Bergen Big Lots," nj advance media for, Kathryn Brenzel

"New York Yankees fans started lining up at 4:30 a.m. on Friday to meet former pitcher Mariano Rivera at the new Big Lots in North Bergen.

David Gonzalez, 28, of Union City, arrived at the store at 4:30 in the morning and was one of the first people in line. He called Mariano the greatest pitcher of all time and said it would be the first time he ever met the player.

"I wanted to be first in line, and knowing how big he is, I expected a bigger crowd than this at 4:30," he said while waiting outside the store.

Mariano was a relief pitcher for the Yankees for 17 seasons, and many of the fans who lined up outside Big Lots described him as a legendary closer. Roughly 200 people were given tickets to meet Mariano for a few minutes.

"When you're out with the fans, it's always good," Rivera told NJ Advance Media. "We want to make sure we put a smile on their face."

Some young fans even skipped school for a chance to meet the "Sandman."

"My favorite team is the Yankees," said Kristopher Salinas, 13, of Hoboken. "Mariano's my idol because he never gives up and no matter what, he's focused."

Mariano's autograph session was part of a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new Big Lots in the Columbia Park shopping center at 3129 Kennedy Boulevard in North Bergen. The new location joins nearly 1,500 other Big Lots stores throughout the country.

As part of the grand opening, store representatives donated $2,500 to McKinley Elementary School, which is located behind the store. Principal Janet Sandstrom said the money would be used to buy new uniforms for the basketball team and cheerleaders, as well as new technology for the school.

"They showed themselves to be good neighbors," Mayor Nick Sacco said after the check was presented to the school. "This is a win for the town and a win for the school system.""

Image: "New York Yankee Mariano Rivera signed autographs for some 200 fans on Friday who gathered at the new Big Lots in North Bergen." Kathryn Brenzel for


10/17/14, "Mariano Rivera unsure Dellin Betances is ready for Yankees' closer job -- yet," NJ Advance Media for, Brendan Kuty

"Mariano Rivera said he's not sure whether Dellin Betances is ready to take over as the Yankees' closer. But the 26-year-old wowed Rivera in his rookie season.

"I don't know," Rivera told NJ Advance Media when asked if Betances could handle the role Friday.

"But the job that he did this year was tremendous. We'll see what happens."

David Robertson excelled in his first season as the Yankees' closer, converting 39 of 44 save attempts after about four seasons as Rivera's set-up man.

But Robertson, 29, is a free agent for the first time in his career and is expected to draw tons of interest.

He's not guaranteed to return to the Yankees, who are expected to extend him the one-year, $15-million qualifying offer this offseason. Robertson has said he would have given the Yankees a hometown discount before the 2014 season.

If Robertson didn't return, Betances would be next in line to take over as closer. The 6-foot-8, 260-pound fireballer realized his promise this season. A former highly touted prospect, Betances joined Derek Jeter and Masahiro Tanaka as the Yankees' All-Star selections.

Using a fastball that touched 100 mph and a devastating curveball he learned after transitioning to the bullpen in fall 2012, Betances racked up 135 strikeouts — the most by a Yankees reliever ever [in a regular season], beating the mark Rivera set in 1996. He also had a 1.40 ERA in 97.2 innings.

Rivera seemed particularly impressed with Betances. When asked how he felt Robertson performed in 2014, the 44-year-old future Hall of Famer immediately brought up Betances.

"David did a tremendous job," Rivera said. "I don't think he did a bad job at all. With the help of the bullpen — Betances was a big key there. I think for being (his) first year, he did a tremendous job."
Rivera signed autographs and posed for photos with hundreds of Yankees fans at the opening of Big Lots in North Bergen Friday morning.

Rivera said it was great to connect with fans...."When you're out with the fans, it's always good. We want to make sure we put a smile on their face."

He also doesn't seem likely to get the urge to return to the Yankees anytime soon. Rivera said the retired life is treating him well. He retired after notching 44 saves in 2013.

"Can't complain," Rivera said. "I love it. I'm enjoying it a lot. A lot of charity work. A lot of events. A lot of foundation work.""

Image: "New York Yankee Mariano Rivera signed autographs for some 200 fans on Friday who gathered at the new Big Lots in North Bergen." Kathryn Benzel for


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