Mariano Rivera’s career is unparalleled in the history of baseball.
“If someone would have told me in 29 years, we’ll be sitting in Cooperstown talking about the Hall of Fame and that would be in a book, I would tell them that they’re crazy,” Rivera said Friday during his first ever visit to Cooperstown.
He began his journey in 1990 when he got on a plane and left his native Panama to pursue a career on the diamond. He went on to become the all-time MLB saves leader with 652, a five-time World Series champion and a 13-time All-Star. The fact he was given an initial chance is a miracle in and of itself.
“When I signed, I was 20 years old throwing 87 miles per hour,” he said. “That was my highest.”
Rivera could only imagine how he would have been received with a repertoire like that today.
“The scout would have told me to go back home and continue working,” he said.
But he got his chance and made the most of it. On Jan. 22, he learned he was the first unanimous Baseball Hall of Fame inductee.
“My heart is full of gratitude and thankfulness because of that,” he said when asked about making Cooperstown history.
Rivera spent his entire 19-year career with one team, the New York Yankees.
“Everyday that I had the opportunity to put on the pinstripes was a privlege and an honor,” he said.
Rivera made his mark as arguably the greatest closer ever who thrived in the biggest moments. His original aspirations were not nearly as ambitious.
“I wanted to start,” he said. “But I wasn’t attached to it. I just wanted to be happy and be in the game. Smarter people than me put me in the position to shine and that’s why we’re talking here about that.”
Rivera and the rest of the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2019 will be enshrined in Cooperstown on Sunday, July 21st.