Quick, think of your childhood hero. Could be a superhero, a sports hero, a famous actor/entertainer, etc. Think about the qualities that first attracted you to them as heroes. They might have superhuman abilities like strength or flight. They push the limits of the feasible and leave you in awe as they accomplish amazing feats. They have a certain aura about them that takes your breath away as you watch them. They’re also probably square in the spotlight day in and day out. That’s where they shine brightest, with eyes watching their every move as they do the incredible. They are often out-spoken, flashy and don’t mind the attention and praise.
None of those characteristics describes Mariano Rivera. Nevertheless, he should absolutely be one of your heroes (and your kid’s too). Why’s that?
Well, first, Mariano Rivera is as close to superhuman as you can get on a baseball diamond. He holds a stunning 13 regular season records, 13 postseason records, is the all-time leader in saves (608), has been to 12 all-star games and has helped the Yankees win 5 World Series championships. All while pitching essentially one type of pitch. One. As in, every time a batter came to the plate he had a nearly 85% chance (in 2010, according to Fangraphs) that he was going to see one type of pitch. And it doesn’t take Vegas experts to figure out which one a hitter should be looking for when they swing. So for 16 years as the Yankees closer, every hitter that Rivera ever faced was almost assured going to get a cutter thrown to him nearly every pitch. And they still couldn’t hit it. To the tune of those 608 career saves with a 2.21 career ERA including a miniscule 0.70 ERA in the postseason. The Cutter. It may go down as the most dominant single pitch ever baseball history. It was Rivera’s own superpower of sorts. It shattered bats, ended rallies and broke hearts year after year and somehow never changed.
This hero, though, isn’t just all talent and triumph. This hero cares as much about what he accomplishes as he does how he accomplishes it. He wants to win every game, but he knows to never sacrifice his morals to do so. He is fiercely competitive yet amazingly stoic. He believes that the expectations written in his contact as well as bestowed on him from his team and the fans are his responsibility to fulfill. He takes pride in everything he does from his warm-ups in Spring Training to his final pitch in the postseason. He works at his craft every day and only affords himself a break in the fleeting moments after a championship. He is one of the most dominant pitchers in MLB history and yet he is still humbled by every chance he gets to take the mound again. He has enough World Series rings to adorn every finger on his prized right hand as well as millions of dollars in the bank, but he stays out of the spotlight and privately raises a family. He carries himself with a quiet confidence that heightens his performance on the mound, instills absolute trust in his team, demands respect from his opponents and earns him admiration off the field.
Thus, as he enters the final chapter in his storied career, I urge you all to consider adding Mariano Rivera to the top of your hero list. Not because of his championships, his records or even his cutter. But instead because Mariano Rivera embodies every aspect of “professional” from the way he methodically executes his job with unmatched precision to the way he humbly accepts his accomplishments to even the way he so graciously thanked the sports world upon his exit. He is all that is rare in today’s globally connected, instant gratification, over-exposed and PED-filled sports world. In fact, he represents everything that we would want ourselves, our family, and our friends to be. And for that, he really is a hero.
Want more motivation? Check out the previous daily driver!
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