Mariano Rivera, exemplary athlete, consummate professional, retires in style

Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in front of his newly retired number at his retirement ceremony on Sept. 22 2013 at Yankee Stadium.

Yankees closer Mariano Rivera sits in front of his newly retired number at his retirement ceremony on Sept. 22 2013 at Yankee Stadium.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

On Sunday, September 22, Yankee closer Mariano Rivera was honored by his team in a 50-minute ceremony that included Rivera’s former teammates, coaches, and the rock band Metallica, who serenaded him live with his trademark entry song, “Enter Sandman.” Rivera’s family was on the field with him to celebrate, as were Rachel and Sharon Robinson, the widow and daughter of baseball legend Jackie Robinson. The festivities included an unveiling of Rivera’s number that is to be retired by the Yankees at season’s end.

Rivera receives an honorary gift from rock band Metallica during the retirement ceremony.

Rivera receives a gift from rock band Metallica during the retirement ceremony.

The warm feelings that Rivera inspires in many have turned what would normally be a dismal year by Yankee standards into an unforgettable one. The retirement festivities on Sunday represented the pinnacle of Rivera’s retirement tour, a gathering of Yankee legends who came out to show their support and appreciation for an exemplary athlete. And when Rivera addressed the gathering he thanked “the good Lord, the Yankee organization, fans, teammates,” his parents and the late Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, saying ” I love and miss him.”. Rivera reveled in the love that he was shown by fans, the Yankee organization, family, teammates and friends. For the fans, the tour activities have come to represent the brightest moments in a rather mundane Yankees season this year.

The Yankees have been hampered by injuries to all of their most notable stars, including  team captain Derek Jeter. Alex Rodriguez was also involved in another PED scandal, which has created a stir as he continues to play while appealing a substantial suspension. While the Yankees have struggled on the field, their fiercest rivals, the Boston Red Sox, have soared to the best record in game. On the other hand, the Yankees will likely miss the playoffs, which is more disappointing for its fans, considering this is the first year that Major League Baseball (MLB) has expanded the number playoff participants.

None of these developments have tainted Rivera’s retirement tour. At the beginning of the year, Rivera announced that he would retire at the end of the season. Rivera’s brilliance on the field combined with his stoic, engaging and composed demeanor resulted in such high regard league-wide that Rivera was honored in every stadium he played in this season. Rivera continues to display great humility and grace as he receives gifts from his competitors and his own team.

Rivera stands at Jackie Robinson's retired number in monument park at Yankee Stadium besides Jackie Robinson's widow, Rachel Robinson and their daughter Sharon Robinson.

Rivera stands at Jackie Robinson’s retired number in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium beside Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson and their daughter Sharon Robinson.

Mariano Rivera exemplifies the role model that parents and the media expect professional athletes to be. The confluence of circumstances that have led to Rivera universally being recognized as the greatest closer of all time are difficult to replicate. Rivera played his entire illustrious career for one of the most revered teams in all of sports while having only one season where he missed significant time due to injury.

There have been no legal concerns or insidious scandal associated with Rivera, one of the most famous New York athletes of all time. Rivera has always carried himself with class and poise while continuing to frustrate opponents on his way to five World Championships and what is expected to be an eventual place of honor in the Baseball Hall of Fame. In an age where an athlete’s legacy can be tarnished by anything from romantic entanglements and legal troubles to merely changing teams, it seems fitting that the last man in the MLB to wear Jackie Robinson’s number 42 would be a trendsetting legend himself —

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and Management training consultant