Growing up a Yankees fan, there are countless memories of Mariano Rivera stuck in my head. World Series victories, his career record breaking save, splintering bats like they’re tooth picks – his play on the field may not be matched by any pitcher in our lifetime. It wasn’t until recently though that I was unexpectedly given the chance to see what Mo was like as a person.
In the winter of 2010, during my senior year at Quinnipiac University, Mariano visited QU. He came on a private tour with his son, who was a senior in high school at the time and looking to attend the school. The university did a great job of keeping it hush and there were no announcements made that the Yankees legend would be walking around. It essentially wasn’t until the first student saw him walking on campus and said ‘oh sh*t, that’s Mariano Rivera!’, that word got out he was there. Word spread like wild fire and in no time hundreds of students flooded out of the library, cafeteria and dorms in order to get a glimpse of him. As this all began to unfold, I was in a classroom with a few windows that looked over the main quad of the campus. As I watched mobs of students swarm Mariano, his son, and the few security guards that were showing him around, I remember thinking to myself that he must be so annoyed at this whole situation. Here he is, on an off day doing his fatherly duties at a major point of his son’s life and crowds of kids are pushing through and running in the snow in order to get closer to him.
That assumption of mine could not be further from the truth that day. Mariano could have easily said he was fed up with the tour that quickly turned in to a flash mob and left without a problem. Instead, he embraced it. He greeted every student and faculty member with that signature smile of his and took the time to sign autographs and take a picture with each person that he could. He even made a pit stop on the tour to make a surprise visit to a few members of the baseball team, where he gave them a quick pep talk about how hard work will always trump talent.
Mariano’s accomplishments on the field are unprecedented. He is, in my opinion, the most dominating pitcher of all-time. If this is the last we see of Mo in a Yankees uniform, it’s important to not only remember him for how great he was on the field, but also how he was an even greater person off of it.