Wednesday, February 22, 2012

One Mo' Time

Mariano Rivera is without question, the greatest relief pitcher who ever lived. His cool, his ability to put batters away consistently with one pitch, and his grace on the mound. All of these attributes are what make Rivera who he is. He is the best at what he does.

Earlier in the week, Rivera hinted strongly that this could be his final year. That is something that scares all Yankee fans. How will we ever find someone to replace the greatest closer of all time? When the bullpen gate opens in the ninth inning with the Yankees having a slim lead, how can anyone envision someone other than the great Mariano Rivera jogging out of it? Enter Sandman is a staple at Yankee Stadium and has been for years. We are not ready to give that up quite yet, but apparently Mariano is hinting that he is.

One of the many reasons that I respect Mariano above any other player in the majors is his passion. He looks to the bright side of any situation. The main reason that he continues to be so dominant year in and year out is because he is able to forget about a hiccup. The bright lights of New York don't phase him. He is the god of pitching.

The cutter, that one damn pitch that has worked for Rivera for over 15 years. Hitters can't touch it. It cannot be duplicated. The stifling pitch that has gotten Mariano his success for almost two decades is a gift that Mariano attributes to God - another reason I respect Mariano. He is the most graceful human being that I ever witnessed in the game of baseball. He loves his fans, and acknowledges them in every facet of his success.
I met Mariano once at a signing just after he signed his most recent deal to come back to the Yankees for two years. After he signed my ball, I said to him, "congratulations on your new contract and good luck." He looked at me for a second, and with the most sincere of facial expressions thanked me. I was astounded that a lowly fan like myself could even have gotten a second of Mariano's attention. I saw him at a game in 2011. I was in the bleachers and he was near the Yankee dugout. I yelled his name and waved. Mariano turned around and acknowledged my presence by waving back.

Mariano Rivera is a class act. I can't imagine the stadium not having "Enter Sandman" play as he jogs in from the bullpen. It will be a tough transition when Mariano decides to call it quits, with it becoming more of a reality after every season. Mariano Rivera is one of a kind. He will never be matched in excellence and performance. There is no replacing Mariano. You just can't do it. Whoever will be the Yankees closer after Mariano will have big shoes to fill, but they will never match Rivera's excellence.

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