Have you heard about the Mariano Rivera Farewell Tour? The Yankees have arranged for the legendary closer to have a special encounter with fans and team employees in every city he visits. Here's what he just did in Anaheim (via Kevin Baxter of the LA Times):
Mariano Rivera made his major league debut in Anaheim 19 seasons ago and it didn't go well. The then-California Angels knocked him around for five runs and eight hits in 3 1/3 innings.
Things got a lot better for Rivera when he moved to the bullpen, so much so that when he plays his final game at Angel Stadium on Sunday it will be among the last stops on his way to the Hall of Fame. But Rivera paused to pay tribute to others before Saturday's game, meeting quietly with 18 fans and longtime stadium workers to acknowledge their contributions to the game.
"Frankly, I think it's one of the coolest things that I've seen in my baseball career," said Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto, who attended the 45-minute meeting in a stadium conference room with his 16-year-old son. "He's leaving a lot of people here with something special."
Rivera is holding similar meetings with fans and ballpark workers at every stadium the Yankees visit this season, which he says will be his last despite the fact he is second in the American League with 23 saves — in 24 chances — and has a 1.48 earned-run average.
"Being here for me means a lot," Rivera told the group, which included press box coordinator John Moynihan, who has worked for the Angels since their inception, and Alice Swift, a stadium janitor for the past 45 seasons. "I want to make sure I thank you for everything you do for baseball, for the game."
Rivera, 43, posed for pictures and gave a signed baseball to each guest, receiving an autographed ball from a 7-year-old fan in return.
This happened in Oakland (via SB Nation):
Other feel-good Mariano stories:
- Mariano touched by meeting with Royals fans (MLB.com)
- Thanks for the Memories, Even the Ones to Forget (NY Times)
The farewell tour works because of Rivera's excellence as a player and a person. Congrats to him and Yankees director of communications Jason Zillo for coming up with the idea.