Rivera brings career full circle with one pitch

Sat Mar 15, 2014 10:56pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

PANAMA CITY, Panama (Reuters) - Major League Baseball and the New York Yankees returned to Panama for the first time in 67 years on Saturday, offering one final goodbye to Mariano Rivera and bringing the career of the game's greatest closer full circle.

Back where it all began, Rivera, who retired at the end of last season with a record 652 career saves, threw a ceremonial pitch to launch a two-day tribute for the man fans know simply as "Mo".

The Yankees are playing two spring training games against the Miami Marlins this weekend.

Appearing from the outfield darkness on Saturday, Rivera walked to the mound as he had done 952 times as baseball's most feared closer, with Metallica's 'Sandman' thumping over the loud speakers and the capacity crowd on their feet cheering.

Since the Yankees arrived in Panama on Thursday, Rivera has worn many caps, MLB and Panamanian ambassador, master of ceremonies, host of a charity fund-raising dinner one evening and tour guide another morning, taking his former team mates on a visit to the Panama Canal.

"I think for Mo it has been really special," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "To bring any Major League team to your home town it would be special for anyone.

"But what baseball has meant to Mo and the country of Panama and all he has given back, this is special.

"He will never forget this. I know he wants this to continue and to go on every year."   Continued...

Former Yankees closer pitcher Mariano Rivera (C) is seen during a visit with the New York Yankees team at the Panama Canal in Panama City March 14, 2014. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso