The Boston Sunday papers feature – hold on now – very similar takes on New York Yankee immortal Mariano Rivera, who’s been on a unique farewell tour in this his final season.
Peter Abraham piece from the Boston Sunday Globe:
Yankees’ Mariano Rivera ending career in style
Retiring Yankees great Rivera meeting with special groups at every ballpark he visits
Mariano Rivera played his first game at Fenway Park on July 16, 1996. He was a setup reliever then and pitched two innings against the Red Sox. Joe Girardi, who manages the Yankees now, was the catcher.
John Basmajian can’t remember for sure, but he probably was at the game that day. The guy everybody at Fenway calls “Baz” has been working at the park for 46 years selling tickets.
In the years since, surely their paths crossed. If you count the postseason, Rivera has walked into Fenway Park more than any ballpark other than Yankee Stadium. Baz? He’s as much a part of Fenway as the Pesky Pole.
On Saturday, the two career baseball men finally met.
“Pretty special,” Basmajian said. “I’ve got tears in my eyes.”
Rivera is doing something special in his final run through the American League. “[H]e is holding small, informal meetings with people at every park he visits . . . It can be fans, team employees, or some combination of the two.”
Here’s a taste of what the Boston meeting was like:
After a brief introduction from [Yankees media relations director Jason] Zillo, Rivera led a discussion that lasted 40 minutes. He spoke softly at first then a little louder as he encouraged others to join in.
Rivera called all of the participants by name, too. People he had never met before and might never see again were treated with the respect he would show a teammate.
“It’s an honor for me to be here with you guys.” Rivera said. “First of all to say thank you. Thank you for all of you who are a part of baseball. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to be able to hear from people that we don’t see on the field. We see the people in the clubhouse and we see the people who work on the field, but we don’t see everybody who works behind the scenes who make baseball what it is.”
Among the group Rivera addressed were Jimmy Fund patients Harry Clark, “a 13-year-old from Wellesley who is visually impaired by an inoperable brain tumor,” and Fernando Morales, “a 19-year-old from Norwood who had to give up his sport, soccer, because of Ewing’s sarcoma.”
Rivera’s tender interactions with the two speak volumes about the man.
Crosstown, Sunday’s Boston Herald front page featured this bromantic swoon:
Michael Silverman piece:
Mariano Rivera brings goodwill tour to Fenway meeting
For one day at least, Mariano Rivera made the whole Red Sox-Yankees rivalry look silly.
Rivera, the most respected player of his generation and the best closer in the history of his sport, spread his brand of love and kindness all over the Red Sox and Fenway Park yesterday . . .
His pregame visit took place in a Fenway suite where fans — young and old, some with cancer, victims of the Boston Marathon bombings — along with longtime Fenway employees sat in a semicircle around the 43-year-old Rivera, who was dressed in his Yankees batting-practice uniform.
His greeting was essentially his thanks to them for being there.
As the Globe piece noted, the Boston fans thanked him right back.
The fans at Fenway gave Rivera a standing ovation when he came out of the bullpen to pitch the ninth inning. He picked up the save as the Yankees won, 5-2.
“I appreciate this place,” Rivera said. “To me, there is no rivalry. We all love baseball.”
And, clearly, we all love The Great Rivera.