The White Sox captured Mariano Rivera’s favorite moment at U.S. Cellular Field with one of three gifts on Tuesday night.
Asked to pick a specific memory of playing at the South Side venue, Rivera, who is set to retire after his 19th season with the New York Yankees, remembered his first starting assignment shortly after he was promoted to the majors for a second time.
Then a starting pitcher, Rivera struck out 11 batters and allowed two hits with four walks over eight scoreless innings in a July 4, 1995 win over the White Sox.
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On Tuesday, the White Sox presented baseball’s all-time saves leader with a framed scorecard of the game, a framed picture collage from the Yankees’ first visit to The Cell after 9/11 and the team also donated $4,200 to the Jackie Robinson Foundation in Rivera’s name.
While Rivera has appreciated all the gifts he has received from teams and the way he has been showered with support from the stands, his favorite part is the fans he has met along the way. Rivera asked and has been allowed to meet with a select group of fans and team’s employees in each stop along the way.
“It has been wonderful,” Rivera said. “Not the farewell, but the opportunity I have to share with the fans. To share with those fans behind the scenes that nobody sees. Those are the ones I’ve been enjoying. The rest is great but I’m enjoying what I’m doing with the fans.”
Rivera has enjoyed the tour in particular because he knows it’s his last time. He returned to the club this season and has had success after he missed most of 2012 with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Rivera intends to stay involved with baseball, but not as a player.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi has appreciated the chance to watch Rivera make his way through the majors for the last time. He sees the way fans have engaged Rivera at the park and the way they cheer whenever he enters the game -- even if it means the home team is losing.
“He's gotten a ton of appreciation,” Girardi said. “I have people yelling at me to pitch him in a game, a game that we might be losing. People say ‘I drove 1,000 miles to see him pitch and I want to see him pitch.’ I think the clubs have done a really nice job of honoring him and I think he has enjoyed it. I think all of us have enjoyed it as well.”
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Rivera said he has been surprised and appreciates the standing ovations and recognition of opposing fans, which have seen him close out 643 saves to date.
“You definitely do,” Rivera said. “It has been great. It has been a blessing because I didn’t expect that. But I believe they recognize what you do, they appreciate what you do and I am thankful for that.”