The Secret of Mariano Rivera’s Success
- Updated: November 7, 2009
He’s A Christian!
But he wasn’t always a Christian, people never are…not from birth anyway. Furhtermore, there is a moment in every Christian’s life where they have made a choice to follow the path God has planned for them. For some, it’s as clear as day, but for others, it’s a gradual move towards that plan which blurs that moment to the point where they can’t pin point it. For New York Yankee closer Mariano Rivera, that moment was on the mound. A fitting place for the future Hall of Famer if you ask me!
Mariano Rivera was experiencing a rare sluggish performance against the Atlanta Braves last July 16 at Yankee Stadium when he stopped suddenly between pitches and listened to a sound he had never heard before. It was a joyous yet eerie sound. Rivera said he heard a voice talking to him, a voice he believes was God calling out to him.
Rivera explained that the voice told him, ”I am the one who has you here.” To Rivera, those compelling words meant that God had plans for him beyond simply firing baseballs for the Yankees. To the deeply religious Rivera, those words caused him to further contemplate his life’s path and begin formulating a plan for retirement from the sport.
”When God takes control of everything, He’s inside of you and He brings you strength,” Rivera said. ”He has the power to do everything for you. I feel like God is on my side and will help me deal with anything.”
That path that Rivera is confident that God has in store for him when his playing days are over is to become a minister.
Mariano Rivera on Retirement
In fact, on November 5, 2009, Jack Curry (still with the New York Times) wrote the following, “A few months before the 2000 season, Rivera shocked the Yankees by saying he wanted to pitch four more years, then retire to become an evangelical minister. But he never stopped pitching.“
As you know by now, for some reason, that didn’t happen! Good for baseball, but not what Rivera had planned. Sometimes God has a way of allowing us to think one way, only to reveal His will for our lives in a different way than we had thought. For example, it’s nine years later and Rivera now wants to play for 5 more years! How do I know, Jack Curry told us so in that last reference from November 5th as it was entitled, “Rivera, Nearing 40, Wants to Play Five More Seasons” (hat tip to Tim Deirkes at MLB Trade Rumors).
If my math is correct, and I was a pretty good math student in my day, Rivera was originally going to retire after the 2004 season, but I wonder if that 2004 defeat to the Red Sox in the ALCS had Rivera pleading with God for an extension on those retirement plans. If you remember,hat was the year the Sox came from behind down three games to none only to beat Rivera and run the table the remainder of the playoffs and Rivera was right in the middle of it.
Now he is turning 40 this month and wants to play five more years! If anyone besides Nolan Ryan can do it, and do it so dominantly, Mariano Rivera can! I for one hopes that he outlasts Tevor Hoffman and becomes the All Time Saves leader so that there won’t be any further debate as to who’s the greatest! And YES, I am still a Red Sox fan!
Mariano Rivera on his Faith
More on Rivera’s faith is noted in the April of 2004 edition of the Baseball Almanac by Michael Aubrecht titled, “Mariano Rivera – A Man with a Message“. Here’s an excerpt from that article:
With such a tremendous gift it is no wonder that Mariano is a deeply religious man who can often be seen reading the Bible in the Yankees’ clubhouse before and after games. Active in the Christian community, Rivera often lends his time, talent and testimonies to numerous religious organizations that are both sports and non-sports related. Not long ago, he financed the construction of a church in his native Panama City and announced his intention to become an evangelical minister at the conclusion of his baseball career. If he retires after the 2007 season, Mariano will be eligible for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012. Although Cooperstown has been historically hesitant to embrace relievers, the consensus of most experts is that Rivera will have little trouble being elected, most likely on his first attempt.
During an interview with Sports Spectrum Magazine, a leading Christian-based sports publication, Rivera spoke about adversity and how it led him to faith. “Every time I was going through a hard time, somebody was there to help. It’s not too often when you play in the minor leagues that a coach will tell you he will take care of your son while you stay with your wife at the hospital. My pitching coach did that, and one lady from Panama-I never knew her (before)-offered to stay with my wife while I was playing. Even though I had nobody here, I was never alone. That made me accept Jesus as my Savior. I knew it wasn’t a coincidence. It was the Lord putting someone there for me.”
In a sports world that is now dominated by media-hype and big endorsement contracts, players like Rivera and their traditional values provide a glimmer of hope that there are still role models worthy of our children’s attention. Mariano is well aware of the responsibilities that go with being a professional athlete and is constantly working to promote Christian ministries that focus on kids. Unfortunately today, many athletes do not recognize the source of their blessings or use their time in the spotlight for the betterment of others. Someone once said in regards to the selfishness of the modern athlete, “The players of yesterday played for the name on the front of the uniform. The players of today play for the name on the back.” Some players, like Rivera, not only exhibit loyalty to their team, but a loyalty to their religious convictions as well. Perhaps that is why he dominates like no other on the mound and will go down in history as one of the greatest clutch pitchers in all of baseball.
Now Mariano Rivera, five years removed from those statements by Michael Aubrechtin stands in an age that is tainted as the steroid era, yet he remains a calming force on the mound and in the game. He continues to be a true sports hero if there ever should be such a thing. I would trade him for Papelbon in a heartbeat and that’s saying a lot!
Whenever Rivera does hang up his cleats, may God bless his ministry, wherever that may be! Until then, I just hope that God works through him to influence those around him because if that happens, this world and baseball will both be a better because of it.