"Lazzari's Sports Roundup" - - - - 9/28/13
A Thank You Letter To "Mo"
I'll try to make this brief; if I attempted to write everything going through my mind right now regarding your greatness, it would turn into a book (which may happen someday). You pitched in the final game of your illustrious 19-year career last week as your "farewell tour" was concluding; yes, no rock band that ever conducted a farewell tour brought tears to my eyes like YOU did these past few weeks. WHY did I cry? Because I value honor, integrity, teamwork, and CLASS--and you never let me down, Mariano. Not ONCE. Nope, I'm not a maniacal N.Y. Yankees fan--nor a "homer" for any of the NY teams. I'm simply a SPORTS fan who will forever be in awe of your accomplishments, Mo--both on AND off the field.
Yeah, we're all aware of the stats: the all-time saves leader (652), 42 postseason saves, five championship rings, and a 0.70 ERA in postseason play--just to mention a few things. It's no secret that YOU, Mo, were most responsible for the Yankees' success playing fall baseball these past couple of decades. Yep, whenever I hear the term "closer" from now on, your name will immediately come to mind--along with the sound of shattering bats. There are very few things in life that I'm sure of, but one thing will always be a "given" to yours truly: No one ever did it like you, Mo, and no one ever WILL.
Your specialty was the "cutter"--but you never "cut corners", Mo. Thanks for that. Hard work/preparation meant a lot to you as you possessed the ultimate work ethic--and you encouraged others to follow suit. Thanks, Mo, for showing that it's possible to excel in pressure situations--over and over; hell, you made a living doing that. And Joe Torre once said that your calmness made the clubhouse stronger; you led by example in such quiet, selfless fashion. You never showboated, complained, or argued on the field. In addition, you never brought negative attention to yourself OFF the field. Yeah, in an era when negativity surrounds ALL sports, you, Mo, remained a role model--perhaps your greatest accomplishment. You simply were the ultimate "class act."
Oh, I'm POSITIVE that you'll continue to do great things in your next phase of life, Mo; the Mariano Rivera Foundation and its charitable ways will only gain momentum now as your incomparable focus takes a slightly different form. Your gracious nature--exhibited by your thankful demeanor as you were showered with gifts throughout the 2013 season--will always stay with me. You were legitimately thankful for all you've been given--i.e. your natural gifts along with the opportunity to play baseball for a living--and it SHOWED. You didn't have a smidgen of "fakeness" in you, Mo; you were solid, real, genuine. I guess what I'm trying to say is that you truly "got" it.
I know I'm rambling, Mo; I'm shedding a few more tears, as well. Call me selfish due to the fact that I won't be able to watch you pitch anymore. You were "relief royalty"--one of a kind--something I'll never witness again. It's sad in one way--celebratory in another; I can always brag that I saw/watched the great Mariano pitch at the pinnacle of his excellence. Funny, you share the same birth date as my late Dad, Mo; it's no coincidence that he loved watching you pitch and always valued integrity, class, and consistency above all else. Thanks for reinforcing what he always stressed to me, Mo. Yes, I think you both were on to something.
Exit, Sandman. It's time for you to sit back for a bit--perhaps 'chilling' in one of the few rocking chairs you received as parting gifts--and bathe in your greatness. Soak it all in, Mo--allowing your countless accomplishments/memories to slowly infiltrate your mind. I know you'll miss the game, Mo, as you've been involved with baseball for so long. But trust me, Mr. Rivera: Your adoring fans will miss you MORE--not being able to see you dominate in a way no relief pitcher ever has in history. We'll only be able to recall/imagine things from now on--and it won't be the same. The Yankees won't be the same. Heck, BASEBALL won't be the same. One more thing, Mo: Thanks for going out ON TOP. No, your team didn't capture another championship, but you put together another typical All-Star season while showing the WORLD a "superstar" personality at the same time. Few will depart ANY sport like you did, Mo. Why am I not surprised?
Take care, Mo. I never had the opportunity to speak with you; I can only hope that changes in the future as you travel up the road to Cooperstown. I'm out of words now, Mr. Rivera--attempting to convey what you meant to me as an admiring sports fan. Yeah, it's not often that a columnist is tongue-tied/speechless. But I guess incomparable greatness can do that to ANYONE, Mariano. Good luck, sir; you were the best--always will be. Thanks for being YOU, Mo.