Edited by: JV Staff
On Monday afternoon, President Donald Trump presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom—America’s highest civilian honor—to one of the best closers in American sports history, former New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera.
During 19 seasons in Major League Baseball, Rivera established himself as the greatest relief pitcher of all time. His legendary career began with the Yankees in 1990, with whom he became a 13-time All-Star and a 5-time World Series champion.
After hanging up the glove, Rivera became the first player in the history of the sport to be elected unanimously into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Off the field, Rivera is an incredible humanitarian and patriot. His Mariano Rivera Foundation, for example, has provided hundreds of scholarships and countless educational resources to underprivileged children.
Fox News reported that Trump, a Yankees fan, praised Rivera, a Panama native who became a U.S. citizen, on Monday as “maybe the greatest pitcher of all time.”
“Throughout Mariano’s incredible career, he remained a humble man with a deep Christian faith. The Lord doesn’t care about wealth or fame. The Lord cares about goodness and love in our hearts,” the president said.
The White House ceremony made references to Rivera’s playing career, including playing Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” Rivera’s theme song. Trump and Rivera walked into the East Room to the closer’s intro song, according to a Fox News report.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor and Rivera followed in the footsteps of other great athletes – Tiger Woods and Jerry West – who received the award earlier this year.
Rivera played with the Yankees his entire career, from 1995 to 2013, establishing himself as the greatest closer in Major League Baseball history and becoming renowned for his performances in high-pressure situations.
Fox News reported that Rivera recorded a record 652 saves during the course of his career, and led the majors in saves three times — in 1999, 2001 and 2004. He finished in the top five of American League Cy Young Award voting five times.
“Mr. President Trump to me, he was a friend of mine before he became president,” Rivera said in an interview on Fox News in July. “So, because he’s president I will turn my back on him? No. I respect him. I respect what he does and I believe he’s doing the best for the United States of America.”