Mariano Rivera: A Man of Character

Nov 18, 2013 by


“One of the most iconic careers in major league history is ending: Mariano Rivera, two months from turning 44, has thrown his last pitch (italics mine).”  Rivera pitched for the New York Yankees. He became the greatest “closer” of all time. (Closer is a pitcher who enters, typically the 9th inning, to finish the game).

“The end of his career, however, is hardly the end of his imprint. Rivera’s personage is so humble, godly even, that his legacy will go on. Few players in any sport have retired with more reverence from his peers…Rivera has become an enduring ideal, a template of what it means to be a pitcher, a teammate, and a friend.”

There are several stories related in this Sports Illustrated article, but two of those about his character stood out.

Dr. Fran Pirozzolo, psychologist, Yankees mental-skills coach from 1996-2002 relayed the following: “I have worked with elite performers ranging from Navy SEALS, U.S. Secret Service, NASA astronauts, to athletes. Mariano Rivera may be the most single impressive performer and leader I have ever known. He is the exemplar that I point to when I discuss the mental attributes of champions. If we accept that an operational definition of leadership is the effect you have on others around you, then Mo rates among the most powerful leaders in any domain. Most of us have deployed all of our attention to ourselves and to our own needs, with little left over for the needs of others. Mo has a presence that creates an atmosphere of teamwork, of an impossibly high regard for the integrity and worth of the people around him.”

That is an incredible statement of character about anyone I have read. That is both challenging and powerful personally for me to live a life of character.

The second is more the ongoing story of the character of Mariano Rivera.

“Rivera thought about retiring last season, but when he blew out his knee shagging batting practice fly balls in Kansas City, on May 3, 2012, he vowed he would not leave baseball on the back of a cart. Knowing this would be his final season, he approached Zillo (Jason Zillo is the Yankees director of media relations) with an idea: In each road city he wanted to personally meet “behind-the-scenes” people who had dedicated their lives to baseball or had known illness or tragedy. While baseball wanted to say goodbye to Rivera, with the attendant going-away gifts and photo ops, Rivera wanted to say goodbye to baseball, which for him meant all the people who toil in anonymity.”

The article goes on to share one of those incredible stories, but you need to read the article to find out more. The point is that Rivera was more than just about himself; he was for others and lives his life in this manner. He is a man of strong faith in Christianity and again lives his life in this humility.  Well done, Mariano!

alg-rivera-high-five-jpgMariano Rivera teaches us many principles of life, that are so much more than his dominance as a major league baseball pitcher. Some of those lessons for me are:

He is a person of character.

He is a person of humility.

He puts others ahead of himself and the needs of others before his own.

He has decided to live and leave a legacy of a person of strong values and convictions that communicates a strong, noble character, and a life worthy of others to emulate.

  • What about all of us? How are we choosing to live our lives?
  • For what do we want to be remembered? Will we be remembered as a great success in our area of career/expertise or a person of significance that goes well beyond our talent and ability?
  • What will others say about us as individuals, rather than about our accolades?


Verducci, Tom “Exit Sandman” Sports Illustrated September 23, 2013 36-43. Print.



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