The greatest closer ever to play the game, Mariano Rivera, will retire at the conclusion of the 2013 Major League Baseball season. Though most agree he can still mow down batters late in games with tremendous success, it’s far better to step away from the game a little too early than a little too late, and the timing feels right for Rivera to step away.
He’s not quite done yet, though. There’s still some baseball to be played. And since Rivera is still at the top of his game, he was named an all-star and pitched in last night’s All-Star Game in New York City (though not in Rivera’s familiar Yankee Stadium, but across town at Citi Field, home of the Mets).
When Rivera entered the game in the eighth inning — an unfamiliar time to enter for a closer, but one that was necessary to ensure he didn’t miss the chance to pitch as there was no guarantee the home team would take the field for the bottom of the ninth — American League manager Jim Leyland set him up with a perfect entrance.
As Rivera jogged onto the field to the familiar sounds of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” all the other players remained in the dugout. This gave the player and the sellout crowd the chance to give Rivera the rousing ovation a player of his stature deserves. It was as magical a moment as you’ll ever see in a ballpark.
Then it was business time, with Rivera retiring the three batters he faced and setting up Joe Nathan for the eventual save in the ninth.
After the game, Rivera said the ovation left him near tears. There will be more than a few of those shed by fans in New York and around the nation as one of the all-time greats continues toward his final pitch.