New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has pitched in eight MLB All-Star Games and made five career appearances at Citi Field. Combining past regular seasons and playoff runs, the Sandman has ascended to the mound in the ninth inning more than 1,000 times since turning pro.
The future first-ballot Hall of Famer is fully prepared for Tuesday's sell-out crowd to shower him with enthusiasm during the 2013 Midsummer Classic, so don't expect any change in his always-stoic demeanor.
Rather, Rivera takes private moments to reflect on the treatment he's receiving on this farewell tour.
The 43-year-old has epitomized consistency, dominance and class throughout nearly two decades in pinstripes. That's why Major League Baseball—and all of its teams, corporate partners and fans—has been genuine in its efforts to show appreciation.
He feels the love on the road, where every opponent has passed on a unique gift before hosting him one final time.
The Detroit Tigers, for example, presented a plaque display that contains dirt from the Comerica Park and Tiger Stadium pitcher's mounds, reports James Schmehl of MLive.com. When Rivera went to Queens earlier this summer, the New York Mets asked him to throw out a ceremonial first pitch.
The Yankees, obviously, have gone to great lengths to celebrate one of the best players and ambassadors in the history of their storied franchise. They made Rivera the main attraction of their annual Old-Timers' Day in June and unveiled a commemorative New Era cap embellished with his image.
Since launching July 10, AT&T's "My Favorite Mo-ment" campaign has given the rest of us the same opportunity to thank him in unique ways.
When Rivera made his retirement plans official in spring training, the company began developing this mobile-enabled microsite. Olga Serna, Associate Director of Corporate Sponsorship, tells Bleacher Report about the mission "to be that portal of communication between the fans and Mariano directly."
Here's some Twitter reaction to the above commercial:
That Mariano Rivera AT&T commercial is perfection— Colton Hoffman (@coltonhoffman) July 10, 2013
AT&T just had a whole commercial dedicated to Mariano Rivera, I've never been a prouder customer http://t.co/ojLl9tfXJ9— Ben Jacobs (@benhjacobs) July 10, 2013
I'm about to switch to AT&T just for their Mariano Rivera commercial I just saw.— JK (@jh_kenney) July 11, 2013
Pictures, videos and texts expressing gratitude have flooded in from across the country and around the globe. Fans have uploaded their personal messages—or "virtual handshakes," as Serna calls them—from the Bronx, Long Island and New Jersey but also from Vermont, Georgia, Los Angeles, Panama and Australia. Cameron F. even reached out from the U.S. territory of Saipan to contact the man he considers "a great role model" for his kids.
Baseball's all-time saves leader is being applauded for his sportsmanship, professionalism, philanthropy and, of course, his mastery out of the bullpen in pressured situations.
Serna says Rivera was "overwhelmed" by the responses when he first visited the site. Many of them will be included in a montage to be shown on the Yankee Stadium scoreboard during one of the final home games of the 2013 season.
"It's been amazing to see all the support for Mariano," Serna says, "so we're very glad we were able to provide this platform."
Follow Ely on Twitter for more about Mo's career, this campaign, the 2013 Yankees and baseball in general.
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