Mariano Rivera on His Foundation, Retirement and the Yankees

Obi Anyanwu

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Mariano Rivera is going for his 653rd save — and he plans for this to be his biggest. It’ll also be the first off the baseball field.

The former New York Yankees pitching great said he received many blessings in his life and 19-year professional career, including being the face of Canali in 2010, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom and being the first player to be elected unanimously to the Baseball Hall of Fame — both this year —  but he’s now more focused on giving back.

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“I received a blessing and I’m doing everything within my power to give back to my community and to others,” Rivera said Thursday night at an event at the Canali Madison Avenue store. “It’s not about me, it’s about others.”

Since the beginning of his baseball career, Rivera would give his endorsement money as well as earnings from various shows, autograph signings, an Acura campaign and his book “The Closer” from 2014 to charities. He would also give back through his foundation, The Mariano Rivera Foundation, which he started in 1998 to help children complete their education but later expanded to include community service, churches and disaster relief.

“When things happen, we jump and help, but this year we’ve taken the challenge to build a learning center in New Rochelle,” he said. The decision came following a tragic event between two students at the Westchester, N.Y., school where one was stabbed and killed and the other was sentenced to 16 years in prison at just 16 years old.

“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” Riviera said. “I thought we have to do something for the boys and girls that are less fortunate, so that’s what we’re going to build. A place where they can come in and do their homework and be safe. That’s the challenge we’re taking this year.”

Rivera was the cohost of an event with Canali to celebrate his storied career and recent achievements. He met the Canali family through a friend and he “fell in love” with the business.

“It’s special,” he said, “but at the same time [I love] how humble the family is, and how they represent the brand. You grow as a family and enjoy what you do as a family and if you struggle, you struggle as a family. If you’ve been successful, you’re successful as a family, and they’ve helped me get back to what I love, and that’s the community.”

Rivera retired from baseball in 2013 and admitted: “I’ve been busy so I don’t know if I can call it retirement.” He still watches the Yankees compete, even now in the American League Championship Series, where they trail the Houston Astros three games to one. Although his former team’s chances seem slim this year, Rivera still recalls his favorite on-field moment: besting the Boston Red Sox in game seven of the 2003 ALCS.

Still the service-minded “Sandman” doesn’t see himself entering the dugout to be a manager, at least not right now.

“I don’t want to be because I want to be with my family,” he said. “I spent a lot of time away from my family so maybe later on as a special coach or special adviser where I can teach the boys in the minor leagues, spend time with the Major Leaguers, somewhere I can feel my knowledge and my abilities are going to be great for those coming up. My goal right now is the learning center and taking that to Chicago, the Bronx, Los Angeles, Philadelphia — places where they need it.”

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