"Mariano Rivera has made extraordinary contributions to American sports, culture and society. He is the most dominant relief pitcher in the history of baseball," Trump said, per CNN's Maegan Vazquez. "And more than that, he has lived the American dream and shines as an example of American greatness for all to see."
Rivera retired as the greatest closer in MLB history. He's the career leader in saves (652) and adjusted ERA+ (205), per Baseball Reference. A five-time World Series champion, the right-hander allowed three runs in 56 postseason innings.
Not only was Rivera enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019, but he was also the first-ever unanimous selection.
Vazquez wrote during Monday's ceremony Trump "talked up some of Rivera's most notable stats, praised Rivera's Christian faith, and complimented his performance at the final game in the old Yankees Stadium—calling it 'the house that Ruth built and Rivera closed out.'"
Rivera was among the sports luminaries Trump appointed to the Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition in May 2018. He co-hosted a fundraiser for the pro-Trump America First Action PAC in New York City three months later.
Five other athletes have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom during Trump's time in office: Babe Ruth, Roger Staubach, Tiger Woods, Bob Cousy and Jerry West.