Monday, September 30, 2013

Hats Off to Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte

This was the last baseball season for both Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte of the New York Yankees. Both went out with the grace, talent and style they have shown throughout their professional careers.

Mariano's last game moments before retiring his last batter
Mariano Rivera, after 19 seasons of play, has the most saves in Major League Baseball (MLB) history: 652. In 2013 Rivera added 44 of those 652 saves. To put this in perspective, Trevor Hoffman, in second place has 601 after 18 seasons of play. Lee Smith in third place has 478 also after 18 seasons of play.

Rivera has said he is quitting in order to spend more time with his family and to work in Christian ministry. New York Magazine ran an extensive article on Rivera:
". . . [W]hen Rivera says “church,” as in “My plan after baseball is to focus on church,” he means something much bigger than a new space to pray in. What he has in mind is a brotherhood (and sisterhood) of Christ, a spiritual and material outreach without boundaries, giving help to whoever needs it wherever they are, in the form of school supplies, haircuts, hot meals, Thanksgiving turkeys, toys at Christmas, college scholarships, bed sheets and bath soap for Sandy victims, and on and on. (The Mariano Rivera Foundation already donates between $500,000 and a million dollars each year.) He wants to keep funding church start-ups, as he’s already done in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, California, and Florida, not to mention New York. “In Panama, we have done I don’t know how many,” he says. Here, he wants to buy the building next to the church in New Rochelle and make it into an after-school program for at-risk kids. He and [wife] Clara are even talking about starting a seminary. Refuge of Hope, then, is more than a bricks-and-mortar retirement hobby; it’s a dream of a network of congregations and charities and pastors of the kind that used to be called, quaintly, a denomination."
Andy Pettitte's last game moments before retiring his last batter
Andy Pettitte is the only pitcher in MLB history to have never had a losing season in 19 years of pitching. This year, in his final game--a complete game--he ended with an 11-11 season.  His career record is 256 games won against 153 losses.

Pettitte holds the MLB postseason record for most starts (44), innings pitched (278), and wins (19). (stats for only World Series postseason games here)

In a beliefnet interview Pettitte said that his goal changed when he went to the Astros (2004-2006) from a focus only on his pitching to also being an encourager and helper to his teammates:
"With the Astros, that’s when it all changed for me. I went over there and I was one of the older guys on the team. I had a different role. It was almost like a player-coach role to a certain extent. That’s where my shift switched from being so consumed and so worried about myself and how I was performing and how I was doing to literally turning that all over to God and trying to be available to other people and trying to encourage other people and build those relationships. It’s amazing that when you get the focus off yourself how much things kind of fall into place."
Though Pettitte said he used human growth hormones for treatment of an elbow injury in 2002, he used it to speed healing while it was legal three years before it was banned.

Both men have been a credit to professional baseball and to their Christian faith. Hats off to them for giving almost two decades of quality pitching and character at the highest level of baseball and sports.

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