This past Tuesday, Mariano Rivera stopped at Mets-Willets point on the 7 Train for the very last time. Well, he didn’t necessarily take the subway, but you get the point- the Greatest Closer of All Time made his final appearance in Queens, on the biggest in season stage possible: the All Star Game. The song was there. The cheers were there. And of course, the chills and the tears were there. It was certainly a moment baseball fans who tuned into the game and those who were in attendance will remember forever.
The field remained vacant, fans continued to chatter and venders continued to vend, yelling “hotdogs! Ice Cold Beer!” One thing is for sure though, and that is as soon as the bullpen gate opened and Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” played over the PA, all eyes were focused on the man donning number 42 as he jogged his way to the pitchers mound to set-up a save for another teammate- a roll he is certainly not accustomed to. Regardless of his 8th inning appearance- one in which he retired the 3 batters he faced in order, the 2-3 minute standing-O seemed to last a lifetime.
Mo has rightfully earned the utmost respect from players, coaches, fans, and owners over the course of his career. One man, with one pitch, for one inning (for the most part) is all it took. There is never any bad blood or any exchange of hit batters when Rivera is on the mound; just pure professional athletic dominance. Mariano’s job is to get batters out and conserve the lead that his team fought so hard for during the 8 or so innings prior to his appearance. If you can name someone who takes that responsibility to heart more than Mariano Rivera, I certainly can’t wait for their retirement send off.
Looking back at the emotions that were displayed both during and after Rivera’s All Star appearance, there is no question of the significance he has had on this amazing game. Major League Baseball honors Jackie Robinson- the original 42- every year in order to recognize his greatness and the everlasting effect he had on the game. It is appropriate that Mo is the only man left in baseball wearing the number 42, and it is only fitting that the number be retired for good once he says his final goodbye at the end of the season. He sets a prime example for the way the game should be played: passionately, earnestly, patiently, and emotionally- with a blank stare one second, and a wide grin the next. When Mariano sets, bows, and delivers for the last time this season, history that was in-the-making will be set in stone and record books will have to be re-written. The greatest to ever do it will again undoubtedly receive another standing ovation, and will walk away from the game he has changed, for good. Until then, though, let’s enjoy watching this living legend while we can.