A farewell gift for Mariano Rivera
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Cal Ripken was someone who other players came to know, because as they circled the bases, they chatted with him at second base when he was shortstop, and or at third base when he played there. Young players like Gordon Beckham and Denard Span have good stories about their nerves the first time they spoke with Derek Jeter. David Ortiz is accessible to everybody because, well, he's David Ortiz, someone who wades into the ranks of other teams during batting practice to give big hugs.
But Mariano Rivera, who will announce Saturday that he will retire at the end of this season, has always been somewhat remote, and has fueled the mystique about him with players in other uniforms. He is a warm and generous teammate, a consistent and humble person with everyone from Jeter to veterans. But while he is unfailingly polite when approached by rival players, answering all questions -- and as he's gotten older, he has noticed more and more players with other teams timing their jogs in the outfield to arrange accidental meetings with him -- Rivera's mindset has always been more Vince Lombardi than Big Papi.
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