Rivera is the last of his kind, and the last of a generation

Growing up a baseball fan, and even more so a Cleveland Indians fan, there was one thing I was taught – hate the Yankees.

Known in my household as the “Evil Empire,” the reviled men in pinstripes have always been a thorn in the side of the Cleveland Indians, and most teams in the American League, for most of my lifetime. Since 1981, they Yankees have only had five losing seasons.

While Cleveland fans can be jealous, or even mad, of that kind of success – and even more so of the 27 World Championships the team has captured – there is no way a true baseball fan can hate the man that has been the face of the Yankees franchise since 1995 – Mariano Rivera.

Yankee or not, fans of baseball have to respect what Rivera has done for the sport and how he has done it for the better part of 18 years. He has a career ERA of 2.20, has appeared in 1,089 games and has racked up a mind blowing 638 saves, a major league record.

That record alone, which will most likely creep past 650 by the end of this season, will be one of those marks that will likely stand for many years. The next closest on the career list of still active players is Texas Rangers closer Joe Nathan, who has 328 saves. Nathan has pitched in the majors for 13 years and is 38 years old. At that point in his career, Rivera had already accumulated 443 saves.

While the numbers are fantastic and that alone will make Rivera a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee, what is more impressive is how Rivera has done it over his impressive 18-year career. In the day and age when steroids and performance-enhancing drugs are a daily topic on sports talk shows, never once has Rivera’s name been linked to a scandal. In fact, when the 2003 steroid list named 104 Major League players that tested positive, it was Rivera who wanted the names released.

During his farewell tour of 2013, Rivera has been going out of his way to greet and say thank you to workers of visiting stadiums around the country. When he was in Cleveland, he made it a point to seek out John Adams, the man who has been banging the drum in the bleachers for 40 years. He said he wanted to meet Adams because he respected him for being there day in and day out as a true Indians fan.

And as Rivera has respect for Adams, it was clearly evident Tuesday night at the All-Star game that Rivera is one of the most respected men to ever play the game.

When the closer entered the game in the eighth inning, he entered the field on his own, with no other players on the field to allow fans, teammates and opponents to properly give Rivera the ovation he has definitely earned.

With the sounds of “Enter Sandman” in the background (Rivera’s entrance music), players on both the American and National Leagues, walked out of the dugout to properly give Rivera a standing ovation – tipping their caps to one of the best that has ever played the game.

Yankee or not, Rivera might be the last of his kind this generation will see for a very long time. A player who has stood the test of time, a fantastic pitcher, a model team member, a clean player and a respected man around the league. Rivera might in fact be the last of his kind.