7/15/2013 7:00 P.M. ET
Peers in awe amid Mo's final All-Star scene
In receiving praise, Yankees' closer maintains trademark professionalism
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera is trying to savor every aspect of the experience as he attends his 13th and final All-Star Game, from on-field competition to interactions in the clubhouse. Even dealing with the requisite media crush seems somewhat enjoyable for the all-time saves leader.
Seated in front of the large "42" of Citi Field's Jackie Robinson Rotunda, Rivera said that he has been "overwhelmed" by the attention and admiration flowing his way. The only remaining thing that Rivera needs to make his last Midsummer Classic perfect is a ninth-inning lead to protect.
"That's why I'm here," Rivera said. "That's what I love to do. It will be nicer if it's an opportunity where I can save the game."
The 43-year-old Yankees closer will be ready and waiting in the late innings of Tuesday's All-Star Game, and American League manager Jim Leyland left no doubt that Rivera will set foot on the mound at some point, regardless of the score.
"You can rest assured, he will be on the mound at some point and you will see him pitch," Leyland said. "Whether it be to a hitter, an inning -- depending on how the game goes, obviously [it can change] if something happens, but you will see No. 42 pitch."
Rivera joined second baseman Robinson Cano to comprise the Yankees' pair of representatives at the All-Star Game, the Bombers' smallest turnout since 1993, when Jimmy Key and Wade Boggs packed their pinstripes for the event at Camden Yards.
Cano, participating in Monday's Chevrolet Home Run Derby event as the captain of the AL squad, said that it does feel "weird" not to have a thick Yankees contingent on hand, rattling off the names of regulars Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia as those whom he misses in the clubhouse.
But Cano said that "it is an honor" to stand alongside Rivera for what will be the closer's last All-Star event.
"I would say he's one of the greatest in the game," Cano said. He's a guy that I always want in the game; never had any problems. The way I look at Mariano, I would say he's the perfect player.
"That's what you want in your life. You want to be successful, you want to be given respect by everyone in the game and outside the game, and always be humble."
The first half of Rivera's season took the form of an outpouring of admiration, as Rivera received platitudes when he visited each road city for the final time.
Far more rewarding to Rivera were the interactions he had with fans and employees at each road stop, offering his thanks for their service and support.
That has extended to his teammates, who have said that they feel honored to share a clubhouse, bullpen or field with Rivera.
"I haven't had a chance to talk to him yet, but he's the one guy that I definitely want to have a chance to go up to and talk to and meet," said Jesse Crain of the White Sox. "I'll hopefully find a minute to at least say hello and tell him what I think about him and see what he has to say."
"It's incredible," said the Pirates' Jason Grilli. "I learned something; that he's given up less [walk-off home runs] than men have stepped on the moon. You throw numbers around like that with what he's accomplished. I might have 30-something saves, but there's no way I'm going to touch that record of his."
"A lot of broken bats," the Red Sox's David Ortiz said. "A lot of … man, I'll tell you, Mariano, to me, I think he's in the top three best pitchers that ever played the game. The guy had one pitch, man. Come on. One pitch! And nobody can hit him."
Rivera said that being recognized by his peers is a joy.
"That's great for me," Rivera said. "I do appreciate that, because they always will receive respect from me back. I always am proud to play with them."
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
With this year's event taking place in Queens, Rivera said that he is relishing being able to drive just a few extra miles from his suburban Westchester home, and his wide grin on Monday suggested that he is succeeding in enjoying the events.
But when the lights flash on Tuesday night and the bullpen phone rings for him, Rivera said that his intensity and focus will be as great as ever.
"To me, it's not an exhibition game; it's the All-Star Game," Rivera said. "You have the best of the best and the whole world watching. We have to do our jobs."