PANAMA CITY, Panama -- The New York Yankees opened up a weekend of celebrating Mariano Rivera's career with a visit to the Panama Canal and two events benefiting Panama City's Children's Hospital on Friday.
The day kicked off with a tour of the Miraflores Locks at the Panana Canal, with Rivera himself serving as tour guide and joined by, among others, manager Joe Girardi, outfielder Brett Gardner, reliever David Robertson and bench coach Tony Peña.
"It's been fantastic seeing the guys and up until now we've had a wonderful time. I couldn't be any happier than what I am. It's a dream come true," Rivera said Friday night.
"We went sightseeing and toured the canal and everything was seen and it was very beautiful to be there. I think we all wanted to see a ship pass by but we arrived too late and couldn't see it. But anyways it was an unforgettable experience."
"The trip was overwhelming enough as far as how it works," said Girardi. "Getting to know the entire history and seeing how a new canal is being built is an experience I'll never forget."
"It's been an extraordinary experience. It's incredible how the world is united through a canal and it's good that it's a Latino country," said Peña, who joked that although Rivera has done a great job as a host, he should study a bit more to become a better tour guide.
After a traditional Panamanian lunch, Mo joined Derek Jeter and Robertson, his successor as closer, in a visit to the Children's Hospital.
"At first it was overwhelming getting to the hospital," Robertson said. "But it later on it was awesome to see so many smiling faces, although I would have liked to have learned a little more Spanish before having gone, being that it's a bit difficult with the language barrier. But it was fantastic to be able to have given them some toys and helped them put them together and see them have a very good time."
"It was a joy to see the smiles in the faces of the kids," Jeter said. "We're here to support Mariano and I know how special it is for him that we're here. All of you know the relationship I have with Mo. And this is important for him, it's important for me."
The busy day Friday concluded with a dinner at a gala in honor of Rivera which numerous Yankees and Marlins players attended to pay homage to Rivera and raise funds for the Children's Hospital.
The gala featured an auction of items signed by Rivera, including an oil painting of the Panamanian pitching from the mound at Yankee Stadium and a Panama jersey from the World Baseball Classic signed by the former closer.
"It's been a long time coming that I wanted to do this and at last it happened. For me it's an honor to welcome my teammates," Rivera said in front of more than 400 invited guests.
"I don't have the words to express the gratitude and happiness that I have that my teammates are here. This dinner we have is dedicated to the Children's Hospital and now I feel thankful that the teams arrived well, that there aren't any injuries and that it keeps being a great party in celebration of baseball."
On Saturday morning, the Yankees and Marlins held the official news conference of the "Legends Series," which, like the gala, took place at the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower.
A baseball clinic was also slated in the afternoon for underprivileged kids before the first exhibition game at Rod Carew Stadium.