Mariano Rivera: “Pitching God”

From our Late to the Going-Away-Party desk

Last week – the hardworking staff has a serious periodical backlog – New York magazine ran a cover story on Mariano Rivera that was as sharp as the cut fastball he’s lived off for the past two decades.

rivera130610_1_560Saved

On the mound, God is always with Mariano Rivera, in victory and defeat. But baseball is a boys’ game, not a calling. And now, as he prepares to hang up his cleats, the greatest closer baseball has ever seen is embarking on his real mission.

What follows is a terrific reporting job by Lisa Miller, who got Rivera to open up about both his faith and his good works.

Sportswriters often discount athletes’ religiosity as a sideshow, and the secular viewers of cable TV may prefer the bloodless scrutiny of slo-mo video than to give credit to divine causes, but the full story of Rivera’s career is unmistakably a story about faith. On the mound, Rivera is implacable, a warrior with the Buddha’s face. But talking about faith with Rivera is like opening a bottle; years of feeling come out. He speaks less like a theologian than like an enthusiastic believer, channeling all his considerable charisma, curiosity, and preternatural seriousness into the conveyance of passion.

The article also details Rivera’s religious initiatives, including these:

[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.

It’s a fabulous piece. And one Mariano Rivera offering no one should miss.

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