A Tribute to Mariano Rivera: My Favorite Player and the Greatest Closer Ever

Jeff ShullAnalyst ISeptember 14, 2011

SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 13:  Closing pitcher Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees reacts after defeating the Seattle Mariners 3-2 at Safeco Field on September 13, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. Rivera was credited with the save, the 41st of the season and 600th of his career. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Few have impacted the game of baseball like those wearing the pinstripes. And even fewer have made their mark on history like the names Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle and Berra.

Add Rivera to that list.

Mariano Rivera saved his 600th game in a Yankees uniform, falling one behind Trevor Hoffman's all-time mark of 601 with two weeks remaining in the 2011 season.

And in typical Mo fashion, he dismissed the individual accomplishment and focused on the team.

"[600] is nothing compared to the World Series titles."

Pending some sort of disaster, Rivera will be the leader in the category by season's end.

But this is about much more than his ability to close games. Rivera has been everything you could ever want as a teammate.

He raises his game in the biggest moments, carries himself the way a professional athlete should and understands what it means to be a Yankee—representing the greatest baseball organization in the world.

I don't get much into buying baseball jerseys as much as football jerseys. Maybe it's because I was a pitcher as a kid, and a relief pitcher at that, but there is a reason No. 42 is hanging in my closet.

There is a reason my Dad, brother and I made the trip to Yankee stadium in August of 2008—to see a game for the first time in my life, to see a game in the final year of Yankee Stadium and to hopefully see the greatest closer of all time take the mound.

As if by divine intervention, God saw to it that the Yankees were tied with the Royals headed in to the ninth inning. The game went to extras, Rivera pitched two innings and the Yankees won in the bottom of the 13th.

I could have asked for nothing more from my first and last game at Yankee Stadium. When "Enter Sandman" blared through the speakers, I literally got chills.

I realize the haters of the world will try and tell me that a closer has no business among the greatest in history, and maybe they're right, but that doesn't stop me from considering Rivera my favorite Yankee of all time.

No player who I can remember dominated the biggest stage like Mo did. I know he had his down moments—like the 2001 series—but few stepped up in October like he did.

There will never be another Mariano Rivera.

I can only hope the Yankees find a way to get another ring, and when Rivera decides to call it a career, he can do so riding off in to the sunset as the greatest closer to ever suit up.