Mariano Rivera Honored In Final Game At Fenway Park

It’s well known that the Yankees and Red Sox have been big-time rivals for years, but that didn’t stop the Red Sox from honoring the great Mariano Rivera before Sunday night’s game versus the Yankees.

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Commemorating an incredible career, on the night that will likely go down as Rivera’s last game at Fenway Park, the Red Sox joined the list of teams that have given Rivera gifts throughout the season, in this his final year.

Nothing new, but the Red Sox’ ceremony might have been the most impressive of them all.

After a brief video was played, remembering October 17, 2004, when Rivera blew the game to the Red Sox — “less of a toast and more of a roast,” as Dave O’Brien put it — Rivera was given the following: A painting of himself, from David Ortiz; the number 42 sign that had been posted on the ‘green monster’ every time he made an appearance, from Dustin Pedroia, signed by the whole team; a blue 1934 Fenway Park seat with the number 42 on it, from Jon Lester; and the visiting bullpen’s pitching rubber, with an inscribed plaque, from Koji Uehara.mariano-rivera-at-fenway-park

Perhaps none of these gifts were as great as the chair of broken dreams Rivera was given up in Minnesota earlier this season, but the Red Sox did one of the better jobs of paying tribute.

Rivera saw a lot of Fenway Park over the course of his Hall of fame career, pitching there in 60 games — more games than any visiting relief pitcher in the park’s history.

When you’re talking about a ballpark that’s over 100 years old, that alone makes you aware that Rivera is someone special. And therefore, with plans to retire after this season, it’s important to enjoy Rivera’s greatness in the little time that remains. Players of his caliber don’t come around too often.

However, stating that “hopefully it’s not the last time”, in response to playing at Fenway Park, Mariano continues to remain optimistic of the Yankees’ fate for the 2013 season. Though it’s going to take a lot for them to make the postseason, as the Red Sox swept them in their recent series, certainly not helping their cause any. But if there’s a team that can do it, I believe it’s the Yankees.

For Mariano Rivera’s sake, I hope they can.

One of those players that you never want to see retire, Rivera isn’t just the best closer the game has ever seen — the record holder for most saves, with 651 — he’s one of the best people the game has ever seen. Carrying himself with class everywhere he went, Rivera is well respected by baseball fans around the country — even fans of the Red Sox. The last player to wear the number 42, Mariano is truly a remarkable player and person.

Rivera has had his share of ups and downs this season, but overall it’s been another stellar year. Whether or not the Yankees can make the postseason, and eventually return to Fenway, is yet to be seen, but Rivera made sure his gratitude was known, saying, “I definitely appreciate what the Red Sox organization did. I will never forget that.”

And we will never forget Mariano Rivera — the greatest closer in baseball history.

June 29th Orioles Vs. Yankees Game

After leaving our hotel at around 3:30 on Saturday afternoon, my dad and I arrived to Camden Yards at 4:05: DSCN5760 It should’ve taken a mere 15 minutes, but nothing seemed to be going right, as we circled the ballpark for 20 minutes trying to find somewhere to park. But despite the delay, when we made our way to gate A, on Eutaw Street, there were only two people in line: DSCN5761 Though, as you probably noticed, there were also a few people sitting off to the side. (But they don’t count.)

According to the Orioles’ website, the gates at both ends of Eutaw Street were set to open up two hours before the start of the game. Since it was a 7:15 game, I expected them to open up at (obviously) 5:15. But to my surprise, and delight, the gates were opened at 5:00 sharp.

The only downside to Camden Yards is that unless you’re a season ticket holder, once the gates are opened, you’re only allowed into the outfield seats, until 30 minutes later. Therefore, once inside, I headed to the flag court, in right field, where I received my first glimpse of the field:

DSCN5763(To say Camden Yards is beautiful would be an understatement.)

But despite the great view, I didn’t stay there long, because I remembered that my ticket was in fact a *season ticket* (big thanks to Avi Miller for hooking me up). And thus, after showing my ticket to the security guard, who was blocking the way, I quickly made my way around to the front row, just beyond the Yankees’ dugout:

DSCN5764As I’ve stated multiple times over the past few weeks, I was there to attempt to get autographs from the Yankees, but when I arrived, the Orioles were taking batting practice, and there were no Yankee players on the field; though Robinson Cano was in the dugout. But it didn’t take long before they began to emerge from the clubhouse in bunches, to begin their pre-game routines:

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In case you’re not familiar, these routines include stretching, throwing, running, and my personal favorite, standing around staring at everyone calling out to them for an autograph. It looked to be a rough day for autograph collectors. (Though, I imagine most days are with the Yankees.)

Now, remember what I said earlier about the fans without season tickets having to stay in the outfield until 30 minutes after the gates opened? Well, 5:30 quickly arrived (with still no autographs), and with it came the unleashing of several hundred Yankees fans; many of which were looking to try to snag an autograph, just like the couple dozen of us who had been there since 5:02.

Things quickly went from quiet, and somewhat relaxing, to noisy and chaotic. Check out the view behind me a couple minutes after everyone was allowed in:

DSCN5790There were even more people to my left, and far more people still entering into the infield seats from the outfield. It quickly became insanely packed.

With things kind of slow, autograph-wise, the highlight of the day, other than seeing Ken Rosenthal….:

DSCN5795….and Mariano Rivera, for what will more than likely be the last time….:

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….came right after Jayson Nix finished his warm-up throws, just a few feet in front of me. A couple of kids and their grandma (I think) were standing to my immediate left–one of them was eight, and the other was nine. The nine year-old was celebrating his birthday, and after Nix finished warming up, he ran over and gave the ball to the kid, and told him happy birthday. The kid was extremely appreciative, and the gesture by Nix made the kid’s grandma cry. (Nix is the newest member to my “favorite players” list.)

Nix’s kind act even brought a few tears to the security guard, who was assigned to third base for the game. He had been standing there since I arrived, and seemed to be a nice guy. He (Devin, I think) told us all the story of how Derek Jeter “saved his life”, in a series last year against the Yankees. To make a long story short: the security guard was looking into the stands when a line drive, during BP, came zipping down the line. Just before it plunked him in the head, Jeter jumped in front and made the catch. Pretty cool stuff; especially since Jeter is my favorite player.

Now, back to Saturday’s game.

After it became apparent that no one was going to sign autographs, the ushers kicked us all out of the sections down around the dugout. Of course, as my luck would have it, Robinson Cano ended up signing autos for a few people, but I didn’t get him; mainly because of the rude Yankee fans who found it necessary to cause a scene, which included pushing and shoving people around, causing them to crash into each other. (I think I accidently wrote on someone’s head with a sharpie.) But, you know–whatever. It wasn’t my fault.

I made my way to meet up with my dad, just before game time, and we headed to our ticketed seats:

DSCN5806Best seats I’ve ever had at a Yankees game, hands down.

The Yankees didn’t do much of anything to begin the game, however, the Orioles came out swinging. Scoring four runs in the bottom of the first, off of a few singles, and a Chris Davis 3-run home run….:

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….the Orioles quickly put a beating on Yankee starting pitcher, David Phelps.

But they were no where near being done.

Scoring five runs in the bottom of the third, and then two more in the sixth, off of yet another Chris Davis homer (his 30th of the season), the Orioles quickly put things out of the reach for the Yankees, who, although they scored three runs in the game, didn’t have enough offense to compete on this given night.

In the end, David Phelps got the loss, Zach Britton and the Orioles got the win, and my dad and I got a great time out at Camden Yards. It truly is a glorious ballpark, with a lot of great, enthusiastic fans. I’m sure I’ll be back one day.

Upcoming Trip to Camden Yards

As I first spoke about a couple weeks ago, I’m making my first ever trek up to Camden Yards this weekend, to attend Saturday’s Orioles game versus the Yankees. The game is set to start at 7:15, but I’m planning to show up much earlier, as I usual do at any baseball game I attend; probably around 4:00, or so. oriolepark

I’m going to be trying for autographs from several of the players on the Yankees–hence my reasoning for showing up so early–and in addition, am looking forward to seeing Mariano Rivera for the last time, as well as Ichiro Suzuki, for the first time. I’ve always been big fans of both, and to be able see them at the same time will be fun.

The Yankees are going to be without Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and, most unfortunately, Derek Jeter–all of which were active on the team last time I saw the Yankees play. But nonetheless, I’m hoping to see a great game, even if it does involve a Yankee lineup of Lyle Overbay, Vernon Wells, Jayson Nix, etc.

But in addition to seeing the Yankees, however poor they may currently be, I’m excited to see Manny Machado play for the first time. Machado currently leads all of baseball in doubles, and sits just second in total hits. I hope to see a great game from Machado, as well as other Orioles standouts, such as Chris Davis and Adam Jones. The Orioles have a great team.

But, as with most any game I’m watching, I really don’t care who wins.

I’m just looking for a great time out at the ballpark. (And of course, I’ll be sure to blog about it all as soon as I return.)

My Baseball Game Schedule for the Rest of June

So far this season I’ve attended seven minor league baseball games–three Carolina Mudcats games, and four Durham Bulls games. In that time, I’ve been able to collect fourteen autographs, two game used bats and three game home run balls. While that’s far more than I was able to get all of last year, I’m hoping to continue adding to those totals, as I’m planning to attend as many games as possible from now until September, when the minor league baseball season ends.

The next game I’m going to is this Saturday’s Bulls game versus the Indianapolis Indians. I had originally been planning on trying to get an autograph from Pirates’ number one prospect, Gerrit Cole, at this game, but he’s set to make his major league debut later tonight, and therefore won’t be there. Thus, I’ve decided to try for autos from the Bulls players instead, that I haven’t been able to get so far this season. This includes stand outs such as Alex Colome and Jake Odorizzi, however, David Price is supposed to begin a rehab assignment with the Bulls sometime this weekend, so I’m hoping I can get him while I’m there.

If Price doesn’t happen to be at the game on Saturday, he’s nearly guaranteed to be there when I go to one of the three Bulls games against the Louisville Bats early next week. I’m going for the sole purpose of getting an autograph from Reds’ number one prospect, Billy Hamilton–I was going for Tony Cingrani as well, but he was just called back up to the Reds–but if I don’t get an autograph from David Price on Saturday, I may end up rethinking my plans. (Though that’s a hard decision to make–a guy who stole 155 bases last year, or last year’s Cy Young award winner.)

My first major league baseball game of the season, and my first since June 23, 2012, is coming on June 29th, up in Baltimore. The Orioles are set to take on the Yankees, and with it being my first time at Camden Yards, I’m really looking forward to the game, though it’s sure to be packed. I hate that Derek Jeter won’t be there, but I’m going to be trying for autos from the Yankees nonetheless, including guys like Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira, with my main targets being Ichiro Suzuki and Mariano Rivera. I’m not too confident on getting Suzuki, but with it being Rivera’s last season, and his overall fan-friendly attitude, I’m hoping I get lucky and pick up a signature from ‘Mo’.

So that’s basically it for the remainder of the month. If I don’t get an autograph from David Price on Saturday or next week’s game, I may end up adding an extra Bulls game in, so I can get Price to sign. But I’m staying optimistic that I won’t have to do that.

Towards the end of July, I’m going to be attending a Mariners-Twins game up at Safeco Field, in Seattle. This game is part of a month long road trip that will have a major impact on this blog. But I’ll wait to discuss that at some point next month….

How Much Better Can the New York Yankees Get?

When I made the bold prediction a couple months ago that the New York Yankees would have a great season despite all of the injuries to their lineup, going as far as to say they’ll make the playoffs, I didn’t have many people behind me, agreeing with my opinion. And that’s fine, I’m used to it. But now I get the pleasure of early-season bragging rights, as the Yankees have hung in there, sitting atop the American League East.

Though there’s still a lot of the season left, I think things will only go up from here.

chiro Suzuki, Vernon WellsLet me point out that while I predicted a playoff run, I was going more on a wild card spot, rather than a division title, getting them in. I never saw them above second or third place throughout the season. But now, with them sitting in first place, combined with Curtis Granderson expected to return any day, I could see the Yankees extending their lead even further; especially once Mark Teixeira returns next month.

What it’s come down to for the Yankees is the stepping up of every single player in the lineup. Not just the key fixtures, in Robinson Cano, Ichiro Suzuki and even Brett Gardner, but the newcomers in Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and Travis Hafner. Everyone up and down the lineup has been doing a great job of not worrying about who they’re missing and just going out and playing great baseball–going 16-0 when they score first, so far this season.

The Yankees are certainly being helped out by the other teams in the division, which have been playing fairly poorly as of late–the Red Sox are 4-8 this month–but that’s not to take anything away from them. They’ve been surprisingly good for a surprising long period of time.

But just how good can the Yankees become?

If you ask me, the first month of the season is a sign of things to come. Once the Yankees get back their big bats in Granderson and Teixeira, they’ll get even better, which may seem impossible with the way they’re currently playing. If their pitching rotation can keep on the same pace, though it could always be better, I can fully see the Yankees making the playoffs, as I originally predicted.

Jeter & Rivera Make 2013 Debuts; Rivera to Retire

The baseball world spent most of Saturday focused on the New York Yankees; more specifically, on Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. Both played in their first official games since being injured last season–Jeter with a broken ankle, Rivera with a torn ACL–and, not all that shockingly, both had great Spring Training debuts. A good sign for the Yankees. mo113010--525x400

But the big news of the day wasn’t the debuts of two veteran Yankees, but rather the announcement by all time saves leader, Mariano Rivera, that the 2013 season would be his last.

“Now is the time”, stated the 43-year-old Rivera, in an early morning press conference. “I have given everything, and the time is almost ending. The thing that I have, the little gas I have left is everything for this year. After that, I’ll empty everything. There’s nothing left. I did everything, and I’m proud of it. That’s why it’s time.”

The time would have come at the end of the 2012 season, had Rivera not have suffered from a torn ACL. An injury which occurred while Rivera was shagging fly balls–his normal pregame routine–during batting practice in Kansas City. But, as expected, Rivera didn’t want to go out like that.

No, not Mariano Rivera. Wanting to go out on his own terms, he has far greater plans.

“The last game, I hope, will be throwing the last pitch in the World Series”, said Rivera. “That’s how I envision to be my last game of my last pitch on the mound. Winning the World Series, that would be my ambition.”

A great ambition indeed, but one that will be somewhat hard to pull off, in my opinion. As although I foresee the Yankees barely making the playoffs this year, with all of the injuries the team currently suffers, I’m not so sure they can make a deep playoff run.

For Mariano Rivera’s sake, I sure hope I’m wrong.

Having already broken a number of MLB records in his 18 seasons, all spent with the Yankees, the 12-time All-Star already has a resume to go out as one of the games’ greats, but a sixth World Series ring would obviously be icing on the cake.

It would truly make for a storybook ending to a storybook career.

TTM Autograph Requests Update # 2

Around a month ago, I blogged about the through the mail (TTM) autograph requests I was planning to send off to players during Spring Training. At the end of the post, I stated that I was going to be publishing a blog post every time I received back a couple autographs. Having received two more TTM autograph requests since my last update, I’ve now gotten back half of the requests I sent out, so I figured I’d post another update:

CASEY KELLY–PADRES ORGANIZATION

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Casey Kelly is currently ranked as the number 69 prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB.com. He would probably be higher had it of not been for an elbow injury he endured for most of last season. An injury that limited Kelly to just 14 games pitched; 6 of which came in the majors. In the 6 games pitched at the big league level, Kelly went 2-3, with a 6.21 ERA, but showed signs of his readiness to be a major league pitcher. If Kelly doesn’t begin the season with the Padres, it would be a real shame. He has the ability to be an impact player for an improving Padres team.

JASON MOTTE–ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

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Although the ink from the autograph smudged off a bit in the mail, I’m very happy to add Jason Motte’s autograph to my collection. Topping out at 100, and regularly hitting the upper 90’s, Motte’s overpowering fastball is what makes him one of the best closers in the game. Last season, Motte saved a total of 42 games for the Cardinals, recording 86 strikeouts in 72 innings pitched, on a 2.75 ERA. This season should see Motte posting more of the same type of stats as last year.

I still have autograph requests out for Mariano Rivera, Adam Jones, Tyler Skaggs, A.J. Pierzynski and Justin Masterson, so hopefully they’ll come back soon, so I can write about them; though there’s no guarantee they’ll come back at all.