TRENTON – As former New York Yankees teammate Derek Jeter makes his way through his final season in Major League Baseball, legendary relief pitcher Mariano Rivera has been working hard during his first season away from the game.
After years of earning accolades on the field, the future Hall-of-Famer and his wife have been instrumental in the reopening and renovation of the Refugio de Esperanze (Refuge of Hope) church in New Rochelle, New York. On Thursday night, Rivera was on hand at ARM & HAMMER Park, home of the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate, the Trenton Thunder. During a pre-game ceremony, Rivera was awarded a $50,000 check from the MVP (Medicine via Philanthropy) Foundation to assist with the continued renovation and their work with those looking to be saved. Rivera’s wife, Clara, now serves as the institution’s pastor.
“That's going wonderful,” Rivera said of the church project. “That's my passion. Helping the community so much, being there for others, I'll tell you the truth, it's a blessing and a half.”
“We're working already,” Rivera added. “We've been there already almost four months. It's wonderful…Giving your life to Christ is what we do.”
Though Rivera’s work with the church may have become his passion, it does not mean he has not taken time to enjoy retirement. His son, Mariano, Jr., still plays baseball for Iona College in New Rochelle, and the elder Rivera has enjoyed being able to spend more time around his son’s team.
“I did go see him play baseball,” Rivera told reporters. “I had an opportunity that I did not have before. I have had a tremendous time enjoying it, and I'm thanking God for that.”
However, just because Rivera spends a lot a time around the small Division I school’s team does not mean he’s been adopted as a coach, at least not yet. Despite his son being drafted by the Yankees in the 29th round of the June Amateur Draft, Mariano, Jr. will be returning for another season with the Iona Gaels, and his father is hoping to help him get better before he takes the mound next season.
“I wouldn't say I'm a coach,” Rivera said. “I just go up there and help as much as I can. Hopefully this year, I'll have more time.”
Spending more time with his family was exactly what Rivera wanted to find in retirement. Though he admitted missing taking the mound and missing his teammates, Rivera has spent more than half his life on the road playing baseball, and spending time with his family was sacrificed for his career.
“I love being home,” Rivera said. “Me and my wife, my kids, my family — I missed that — 24 years of my life I missed that. Thank god that I’m there.”
Though he is now home regularly, Rivera still follows his former teammates on a daily basis. He still remained optimistic about the team's playoff chances, and seemed overly impressed by rookie relief pitcher Dellin Betances, who has been dominant throughout the course of the season.
“Dellin has been tremendous,” Rivera told the media surrounding him. “He's been fighting for so many years and finally, everything is clicking. I'm happy for him.”
Rivera is also happy for his former teammate and Yankee captain Derek Jeter, who has embarked on his own retirement tour this season.
“I’m glad that Derek has stayed healthy,” the former ‘Core Four’ member noted. “That was my prayer and that’s what I want. I want him to stay healthy and make sure that he enjoys his last year.”
“You have to understand that that moment had to come sooner or later. It did come for three of us and at least (Jeter) says it has come to him,” Rivera added. “We have just been blessed that we were able to play so many years together and accomplish a lot of good things.”
If Thursday’s presentation was any indication, it appears that even without the other three members of the Yankees’ “Core Four,” Rivera is still able to accomplish plenty of good things on his own.