Mariano Rivera and Grit

If you follow baseball, you probably know a lot about Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ closer finishing his last year as a player. You may have read about his national goodbye-tour to inspire people-in-need with his kindness.

If you’re a Red Sox fan, you know about our complicated relationship with him: we fear his ability, we hate facing him, but we really, really like and respect him.

But, here’s something you may not know: Rivera sucked as a pitcher when he hit the majors.  He now will go down as the best closer ever, but did you know his story is really one about grit?

Here’s an excerpt from a recent Sports Illustrated article, which included an interview with Derek Jeter, who mentioned a particularly devastating moment:

Rivera made his major league debut on May 23, 1995, as a starter against the California Angels…. Rivera was knocked out in the fourth inning of a 10–0 New York loss. Six days later Jeter made his big league debut. Rivera made four starts, pitching to a 10.20 ERA [my bold], before the Yankees decided he wasn’t ready….

Between them Rivera and Jeter would combine for 26 All-Star Games and 10 world championship rings, but on this day they were failed big leaguers sharing a car ride over the George Washington Bridge to a hotel in Fort Lee, N.J., on their way back to the bush leagues.

Jeter: We went to eat at a chain restaurant across the street from the hotel. I was miserable. It wasn’t like, We’ll be back soon one day. We were devastated. You can say depressed. Once you come here, you never want to go back. And we had done all right—at least I thought so.

Mo was devastated. Absolutely devastated. He thought it was his fault we got sent down. Everybody wants to think, Oh, Mo, he’s so calm. . . . Oh, O.K. We were damn near in tears! That was the first time we got demoted. And you never know when you’re going to get another chance.

One of our CEOs and I were chatting about Rivera this morning. Success always seems like a linear path, but it never is. There’s a lot of effort, failure and disappointment along the way. Much grit.

In any case, here’s a video of a very moving scene for Rivera from Thursday night. What a classy move for a classy individual. You can see the video below or click here.

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