You don’t have to like the New York Yankees, but how can you not respect Mariano Rivera?
He has spent nearly one-half of his life beating everyone in sight — with one pitch, a cutter. Rivera pitched 19 major league seasons and recorded more saves than anyone in MLB (652). Rivera led the Yankees march to the World Series seven times (winning five times). He pitched in the post-season 16 times and was selected to the All-Star team 13 times … again, with one pitch.
More importantly than wins and losses or statistics, Rivera won with grace; he lost, rarely, with great dignity. After his final game in New York, No. 42 walked out to the Yankee Stadium pitchers mound one more time. He scratched at the rubber with his right foot, tipped his cap, soaked in the cheers, then he dropped to one knee and scooped up a handful of dirt before leaving the field.Rivera will leave behind his pinstripes and a trunk full of baseball memories.
But baseball is a game, it doesn’t measure who Rivera is as a man. No, the soon-to-be retired baseball player is measured by his life and values. The character we’ve seen over two decades has been shaped by his faith. You see, Rivera is a Christian. He believes in Jesus Christ. What does that have to do with baseball? Everything.
“Everything starts with God in my career, and it will finish with God,” he said.
Rivera is not a baseball player, he is a witness. He lives life, and played the game of baseball, giving thanks to God for his talent and opportunity. Some baseball fans may believe, some may not be sure and some may deny that God exists. Like Rivera, that is a choice we all have to make.
Whether you love or hate the Yankees, when people talk about Mariano Rivera, they use words like respect, class, dignity, humble. In the way he’s performed and in the way he’s carried himself off the field, they are true. Baseball is a better game because of Mariano Rivera. We are better people for having seen his witness, and for that, I thank God for Mariano Rivera.