Fear not, Red Sox fans. "The Sandman" has made his final stop in Boston, and he will no longer haunt the Fenway Park bullpen.
New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is the most feared relief pitcher of my generation. I say feared, not for his size or personality, but for his methodical approach to the ninth inning.
Over the years, Rivera has been to blame for many Red Sox fans' smashed remotes. Loosen your grip, Rivera's stranglehold on the ninth inning is all but over barring the Yankees making the playoffs.
Rivera could toss a cutter with his eyes closed, and that is no exaggeration. If Jackie Robinson were still alive today, I think it is safe to say he would be honored that Rivera is the last player in Major League Baseball history to ever don the No. 42.
I am a Red Sox fan through and through, but there are some Yankees you just cannot boo, and "Mo" is one of them. What the Red Sox did for the retiring legend last night was nothing short of remarkable. The Boston Cello Quartet strummed an instrumental version of Rivera's legendary introductory song, "Enter Sandman" by Metallica.
The entire Red Sox team gathered in the infield to shake Rivera's hand and present him with gifts, prior to Sunday night's nationally televised series finale.
The Red Sox presented Rivera with an original wooden seat from Fenway Park, itself. Oh, and the monster green 44 plate that hangs on the towering wall in left field.
Red Sox owner John Henry took to the public address system. "We tip our cap to Rivera, a great gentleman and a fierce competitor." And, of course, the Red Sox jested him about the 2004 American League Championship Series, but it was all in good taste.
Every closer has a fastball, but very few posses a cutter that has sent more bats through the wood chipper in 19 years than Rivera's has. And the scary thing is, no one taught him the pitch; it just sort of happened.
Rivera's approach to the game is bar-none, the most respectable. I have heard a few rumbles on the radio about how Rivera's farewell tour across the MLB is nothing more than a publicity stunt.
But how can you hate a man who taught himself to pitch?
Rivera does not seem like the type who relishes the attention. This year's All-Star game in Pittsburgh was something special. Rivera's American League teammates remained in the dugout as the veteran closer trotted out to the mound and received a standing ovation from PNC Park.
Many times in sports, we focus too much on what the jersey reads across the chest, and not the true good of a player. Rivera is a role model to many kids out in their backyards who are mimicking the stoic mannerisms of the legendary, future Hall-of-Famer. There is no question in my mind that Rivera will be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.
He has the stats to back it up. The Panama native has a career total of 651 saves and 1,169 strikeouts. Rivera is a legend who I am sad to say, I never had a chance to witness in person.
A man who at all cost tries to avoid the limelight, even though it always seems to find him. Rivera has a Christian charitable foundation, called the "Mariano Rivera Foundation," where he donates money he makes to renovating churches and other community centers in the United States, abroad and in Panama.
Although there was no game to save as the Red Sox were ahead big in the eighth, 9-2, Rivera still made his final exit out of the right field bullpen. The Fenway Park speakers rang out his famous tune of "Enter Sandman," one final time.
But before he took his usual composed trot out of the right field bullpen, he wrote his name on the gate he pushed so many times over all of his 19 seasons with the Yankees.
The message read, "Mariano Rivera, the last to wear # 42. Thanks for everything." A simple, yet powerful statement.
Anything more from Rivera would have been out of character.
In last week's preview on the Ayer-Shirley football team, I mistakenly implied that former head football coach Jason Rivers was fired. A couple of readers pointed out my error, and I appreciate their catch.
I reached out to coach Rivers at the start of the football season, and my call was left unreturned. It was brought to my attention after publication that coach Rivers stepped down voluntarily from his post as head coach. I have had many cordial interactions with coach Rivers in my first year on the job. In my eyes, he was a great mentor for the kids he coached.
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