Mariano Rivera Talks Baseball, Life Lessons At Pattern For Progress Dinner

Nov 27, 2018

Legendary former Yankee Mariano Rivera headlined the annual reception Monday night in Orange County for Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress. Rivera, who is considered the greatest closer in baseball history, talked about baseball, of course, along with life lessons and community development.

Though he hung up his pinstripes in 2013, Westchester County resident Mariano Rivera closed out another evening. This time, it was for nonprofit policy and planning organization Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress. Rivera’s keynote appearance at Anthony’s Pier 9 in New Windsor came soon after his debut on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, which sparked debate over whether Rivera will be the first unanimous selection. He spoke with WAMC about the prospect.

“I’m obviously not thinking about that right now,” says Rivera. “I’m going to let God do whatever is going to happen, and I’m okay with whatever happens.”

Rivera’s longtime teammate Andy Pettitte is also on the ballot. Rivera says he hopes Pettitte gains entry, but said it’s in God’s hands. Since retiring from the pitcher’s mound, Rivera poured a lot of energy into community, for one, seeing that a vacant church in New Rochelle was given new life, as home to his wife’s ministry. And now Rivera wants to bring new life to New Rochelle with another project. Pattern’s President and CEO Jonathan Drapkin explains.

“It’s very exciting. He has, for a long time, wanted to develop a community center in New Rochelle,” Drapkin says. “And Pattern, through its grant writing, through its planning, its strategic thinking, he is actually, he forgoes any fee for tonight and instead he said, I want you to help me get this done.  It’s been a dream of his for four years and we’re going to help him do it.”

And he speaks to likely timing of realizing the community center.

“We first got to make certain that we have the scope right. And he says he knows what he wants in his head, but he’s got to give it to us. Once we have that, maybe a year to two, at that point,” says Drapkin. “It’s not a very complicated project, but it’s a very important project to New Rochelle and to Mr. Rivera.”

Rivera, who pitched until he was 42, earned the most postseason saves, with 42, and was the last player to sport Jackie Robinson’s retired number 42. He talks about what it takes to stay in the game in one’s 40s.

“A lot of driven, a lot of love, passion and the will to do it, and do it right,” Rivera says.

Drapkin is an avid Yankees fan, and sat with Rivera on stage, presenting a q-and-a format. Drapkin asked about Rivera’s famous, or, if you weren’t a Yankee, infamous pitch, the cut fastball. Rivera’s response? “That thing was from heaven.” Here’s Drapkin.

“He really could be a life coach. He really approaches the game in a way that I don’t think anyone will ever do again. And he’s a very special human being,” Drapkin says. “And he, like 9/11, I meant it when I said to him during the interview that there was a part of you that, he feels bad because the seventh game didn’t go the way he wanted it to, and I said, but for three and a half weeks, you healed the city. He’s a very special guy.”

Democratic Congressman-elect for New York’s 19th district Antonio Delgado attended the Pattern event, and points out what about Rivera will stick with him.

“His humility, his passion for the game, his love for camaraderie and team, his commitment to his family, his community,” Delgado says. “He just has a certain energy, a lightness about him that’s grounded in some depth that is incredibly inspirational.”

Rivera, who grew up in a Panamanian fishing village using milk cartons for baseball gloves and branches for bats, spoke about experiencing lows to appreciate the highs, and mentioned being sent down to the minors while he was a starting pitcher, along with teammate Derek Jeter. Again, Delgado:

“Well, I really appreciated when he said, in order to appreciate what it’s like to be great or be on top, you have to go through a valley. That’s how you really know,” says Delgado. “And that, I thought, was a really well-spoken piece of advice. And he captures that, I think, notion very well in those few words.”

With certain teams of late using their top relievers to start the game and in the middle innings, Rivera weighs in on such nontraditional approaches, life lesson and baseball advice in one.

“Well, I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know,” Rivera says. “If it works, do it. If it doesn’t work, don’t do it. It’s simple.”

Meantime, Pattern’s annual reception also honored two retiring New York state senators — Republicans Bill Larkin and John Bonacic. With their seats up for grabs in the recent election, both districts long held by the Republicans will now be represented by Democrats.