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Exit Sandman – Mariano Rivera Bids Farewell To The Bronx

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“I was bombarded with emotions and feelings that I couldn’t describe,” … “Everything hit at that time. I knew that that was the last time, period. I never felt something like that before.”

Those were Mariano Rivera’s words after his emotional farewell to the Bronx last night.

For the first time in the storied closer’s 19-year big league career, Rivera was overcome with emotions.  In a classy move by not only the Yankees, but by the umpires, captain Derek Jeter and Andy Petitte came out of the Yankee dugout to remove Rivera from the game.  Jeter, Petitte and Rivera came up through the Yankees’ farm system together and made their Major League debut in 1995, so having them remove Mo from his last home game was the icing on the cake in what was already a perfect night.

Perfect, a word that describes Mariano Rivera more than any other closer in the history of baseball.  465 times over his career, Rivera had perfect outings.  Last night, by retiring Delmon Young, Sam Fuld, Jose Lobaton and Yunel Escobar on 13 pitches, was yet another.

“It’s time to go.”

Following those words from Jeter, 4 minutes of chanting, applause and tears from the sellout crowd ensued, during which Rivera buried his face into Petitte’s shoulder and sobbed.  Petitte is also retiring on Sunday.  Petitte said that, “I didn’t say anything at first, and I didn’t expect for him to be quite so emotional.  He broke down and just gave me a bear hug and I just bear-hugged him back.  He was really crying.  He was weeping, and I could feel him crying on me.”

It was a strange sight for those used to Rivera’s calm, cool and collected demeanor on the mound.  He has never been a cocky or flashy player; he simply just gets the job done.  As Mariano Rivera walked off of the mound for the last time, he used both of his arms to wipe his eyes before blowing a kiss to the crowd.  Manager Joe Giradi met Rivera in the dugout.  He too was crying when he and Mo embraced each other.  Rivera grabbed a towel, dabbed away the tears, and made his final curtain call at Yankee Stadium.

When the game ended, Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” played as Rivera remained on the bench.  Alone, Rivera made his last walk to the mound, rubbed his feet on the rubber, knelt and gathered some dirt to keep forever as a memento.

“I wanted to get some dirt, just stay there for the last time, knowing that I ain’t going to be there no more, especially pitching.  Maybe throw a first pitch one year, one day.  But competing — won’t be there no more.  So that little that I was there was special for me.”

It was a special night for baseball.

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