It was the final home game of the 2013 season, and Mariano Rivera knew that this would be the final time that he would pitch at Yankee Stadium. He was going to get into the game no matter what the score, and get into the game he did.
Joe Girardi put Mariano Rivera in the game during the 8th inning, telling him to get the two outs in the eighth and then he would start the ninth. Rivera pitched until there were two outs in the ninth inning, and Joe Girardi went to the bullpen. However, Girardi didn’t go to get Rivera–Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte did. As Pettitte and Rivera headed to the mound, Rivera looked around at the stands, beginning to feel the emotions pour in. This was it. This was his final outing at Yankee Stadium for the rest of his life. There would be no more “Enter Sandman” blaring through the Yankee Stadium speakers. He would never come in to get a save at home again. Pettitte walked over to his long time friend, embracing him in a hug, and that was when we witnessed Mariano Rivera not as a closer or as a legend–but as a human being. Rivera started to cry into Pettitte’s shoulder. Rivera’s crying triggered a chain reaction, causing Pettitte to cry, causing Girardi to cry, causing the Yankees broadcasters and fans to cry. This was it, this was the end of an era.
After the final out of the game, Rivera sat in the dugout all alone as his other teammates went to the clubhouse to get ready for their final series Houston. As if it came out of a baseball movie, Rivera headed towards the mound one last time, seeing the departing fans head towards the exits. Rivera glanced down at the ground, bending over and picking up a handful of dirt to take home with him. Rivera wanted a piece of his home for the last 19 years to be with him, and with him it was.
Girardi broke down multiple times during his press conference, realizing that this was it, that Mariano Rivera would never be in the Yankees bullpen at home again. He called Rivera a pleasure to work with, saying Rivera was as good as it gets. Rivera revealed that he also got emotional during the game, revealing that he saw his entire baseball career flash before his eyes, from when he was a rookie to that very moment on the mound. Rivera may not have gotten the World Series Game 7 scenario that he wanted, but the way his Yankee Stadium career ended tonight, it was a fitting ending that looked as if it was scripted to perfection.
There’s no need for Mariano Rivera to throw another pitch. That ending was the best ending that any player could ever ask for. (But we would like to see Rivera in CF, Girardi. We’re holding you to that).