Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mariano Rivera feeling good just in time

Mariano Rivera is feeling good and that’s the most important news of the day.

I had the pleasure of attending Ed Randall’s Fans for the Cure event honoring Mariano Rivera last night. After an introductory video highlighting Mo’s legendary career, the first question Randall posed to Mo was to ask how he is feeling. The long-time sportswriter and radio host spoke for all New York Yankees fans in and out of that room when he asked Mo to please say he is fine. Luckily, Mo said he is feeling really good.

But I felt so bad for Mo because the next thing he said was that it was torture watching the Yankees play without him after that terrible knee injury last year. As the evening went on, it became clear that Mo is a fierce competitor and was haunted by the fact that he couldn’t be there for his teammates.

“I felt powerless,” he said. “I wanted to do everything, but I couldn’t. It was painful.”

Mo talked about how he desperately tried to rehab in time to help the Yankees last October. I hadn’t realized that Mo was trying so hard to return for the playoffs. Not that he could have helped the nonexistent Yankees offense against Detroit.

But he’s been there for his teammates so many times, as we saw from the career highlights that played throughout the evening. The wonder in the voices of former teammates David Cone and John Flaherty, and even a competitor who beat him in Luis Gonzalez, is obvious when they talk about Mariano. Gonzalez insisted that he got lucky in blooping that base hit over Derek Jeter’s head in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, but praised Mariano’s humility and graciousness in giving Gonzalez and the Arizona Diamondbacks full credit for that victory.

“What you see is what you get,” Cone said. “Whatever you think about this man, you’re thinking right because he is an exceptional person as well as a pitcher.”

"He's kind of the Superman of baseball," Gonzalez said in a taped interview. "I'm sure as soon as his time comes for him to hang up that number 42, he will be the next one to go into the Hall of Fame."

Mariano and his friends regaled us with stories about game situations and manager Joe Girardi’s stress over Mo’s relaxed pace of getting ready to get into the game. Mo never rushes through his routine, not even at the request of his hyperactive manager. It was obvious that the guys love to mess with Girardi.

“You have to have fun,” Rivera said. “The game is too hard not to have fun.”

Unfortunately, I wasn’t ready with my camera when Mo walked right past me on the way to the podium – he is so much taller than I expected – and I was a bit too far from the stage to get a great picture. But I did manage some decent photos of him and his friends: Cone, Flaherty and pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

It was really cool to be there for such a fun and funny conversation. I’ll post some of the funnier lines from the evening tomorrow. Needless to say, just being there for an event honoring my favorite baseball player was the ultimate thrill.

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