I don’t remember the year, but I remember it was in Minnesota at the Metrodome.
As was his daily custom, Mariano Rivera was shagging flies in the outfield during batting practice. Running from gap to gap, he looked like a major league outfielder, not a relief pitcher.
Alex Rodriguez was in the cage and three times in a row he drove balls to the wall in center field and three times in a row Rivera made unbelievable catches, leaping up and grabbing the ball before it cleared the fence.
The third catch was as good as any you would ever see and A-Rod laughed out loud. As he walked out of the cage, he gave Mariano a “I’m not worthy” bow with both hands. You could see Rivera’s smile from there.
Some pitchers get their conditioning work in on a treadmill or by running from foul pole to foul pole. Mariano shags flies, always has. It must work, too. The man hadn’t been on the disabled list since 2003.
Rivera later told a few of the beat writers that he hoped to play the outfield for at least one inning before he retired but knew that was impossible because of the risk of injury and his immense value as a pitcher.
Now we learn tonight that Rivera injured his right knee while trying to make a leaping catch in the outfield during batting practice in Kansas City. He has a torn ACL and is done for the season.
Obviously this is major news in baseball and particularly for the AL East. It’s hard to imagine the Yankees without Rivera.
Plenty of people hate the Yankees, but Rivera has earned respect even in Boston. He transcends the rivalry in a way few have.
Rivera is one of the best people in baseball and is nearing the end of a remarkable career, having hinted in spring training that he planned to retire. He deserves to go out throwing that cutter, not on the disabled list.
Here’s hoping we get to see to see him pitch again.