AP PHOTO / OAKLAND A’S
In this photo provided by the Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera embraces A’s mailroom employee Julie Vasconcellos prior to the ball game between the A’s and Yankees Wednesday.
OAKLAND, Calif. — Yankees closer Mariano Rivera got a surfboard and a bottle of Napa Valley white wine as retirement gifts from the Oakland Athletics.
The pitcher was honored in a pregame ceremony before Thursday afternoon’s series finale against the A’s at the Coliseum, the last scheduled visit for the 43-year-old Rivera as he plays his 19th major league season.
As Rivera’s “Enter Sandman” entrance music blared, A’s manager Bob Melvin and team president Mike Crowley presented the pitcher with the surfboard featuring his No. 42 and A’s and Yankees logos. The bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc from Groth Vineyards also has his uniform number and is engraved with a special design commemorating this three-game series.
In addition, Oakland is donating $10,042 to Rivera’s foundation.
Melvin caught Rivera while in the New York organization for Triple-A Columbus.
But he won’t take credit for Rivera developing a cut fastball. Back then, it was a four-seam fastball.
“It turned into a little bit of a cutter, and it was probably a good move for him,” Melvin said. “He’s had an unbelievable career, and not only that he’s as good a person as he is a player. He’s meant so much to that organization, continues to mean a lot to that organization, and wish him the best in his career afterward. It’s rare that you get a guy like that that’s going out on top, and that is the case with him.”
On Wednesday night, Rivera — posing as a pizza delivery man — surprised longtime A’s mailroom employee, Julie Vasconcellos, thanking her for all the hard work behind the scenes. Rivera has made similar gestures of appreciation as he visits a city for the final time.
“I love it,” Rivera said. “I’m enjoying every minute.”
The closer nicknamed “Mo” is considered the best ever. He has 631 career saves and 23 this season.
“I think when the other teams do it, they realize they’re honoring him because of what he meant to the game, not just to the New York Yankees,” New York manager Joe Girardi said. “I think people are appreciative of it, the way he’s handled the game. He’s been somewhat of a spokesperson for the game, a model citizen for the game, a humble player who’s the greatest of all time at his position. I think it’s nice that other clubs honor him.”
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