Mariano Rivera has won five World Series rings and is baseball’s all-time saves leader. Remarkably, he is the only player ever voted unanimously into the Hall of Fame.
The best relief pitcher in history can now add the presidential Medal of Freedom to his trophy wall.
The Yankees great was awarded the medal Monday in a White House ceremony officiated by President Trump. With his wife, three children and longtime manager Joe Torre watching, the 49-year-old Panama native beamed as Trump placed the nation’s highest civilian award around his neck after a ceremony that recounted Rivera’s landmark achievements on and off the mound.
“For me it’s an honor and a privilege to receive this award," said Rivera, who became a U.S. citizen in 2015. "All I did was try to be the best and do the best for America.”
This afternoon at the @WhiteHouse, it was my great honor to present our nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to American baseball legend @MarianoRivera. Congratulations on this extraordinary achievement, Mo! https://t.co/nzOeqFNb3C
Trump, who recounted Rivera’s journey from boyhood in a poor fishing village in Panama to the very pinnacle of sports success, said Rivera "may be the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball.”
“His dominance on the mound mesmerized fans.”
Rivera, who famously entered Yankee home games to his signature heavy metal anthem of “Enter Sandman,” was a 13-time all-star widely acknowledged as the greatest relief pitcher of all time. His extraordinary record — 652 career saves over a 19-year career, plus a post-season record of 8-1, 42 saves and 0.70 ERA — was based largely on his ability to throw a single unhittable pitch.
He learned the so-called cutter, a fastball that veers deceptively at the very last moment, by mistake as an already promising minor leaguer. He rode it to become an indispensible part of the Yankees resurgent dynasty in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Rivera, a devout evangelical Christian, also founded an eponymous charity that has built a community sports center in New Rochelle and in Panama. He and his wife also founded a church in New Rochelle.
"He has provided education and inspiration to children from low socioeconomic backgrounds, empowering them to achieve better futures,” the White House said in statement. “The United States proudly honors Mariano Rivera for being a legend of the game of baseball and for his commitment to improving America’s communities.”
Rivera, who was named co-chair of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition last year by Trump, has said he was friends with the president long before Trump was elected.
He is the 12th person to receive the Medal of Freedom from Trump, and the seventh athlete among a list that includes Babe Ruth, Tiger Woods, NFL quarterback Roger Staubach and NBA players Bob Cousy and Jerry West.
With News Wire Services