There are moments in a day that hold onto your memory and yearn for your attention. One of those moments came on a picturesque afternoon on the day that the National Baseball Hall of Fame enshrined five baseball players into baseball immortality.
New York Yankees closer and All-Time saves leader Mariano Rivera was at the podium, all 55,000 plus fans in attendance were glued to the stage that sat next to the Clark Sports Center, one mile from where the legends of baseball’s past are memorialized. Many were moved as Rivera’s voice echoed across a sea of spectators who traveled distances to witness history.
A video monitor tucked next to the stage focused its attention to a young woman who was proudly holding a Panamanian flag as she wiped tears that streamed down her face.
“She’s crying,” a man chuckled and laughed as he watched the young woman wipe her face.
In that moment my heart dropped.
I don’t know this woman but I know her tears are the tears that hold depth.
A depth that only a few have the humility to understand.
Tears that understood the weight of the circumstances Mariano Rivera had to go through to get to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Tears that were able to feel the small pieces of rocks that would seep into the broken shoes Rivera wore as a child in the fisherman’s village in Puerto Caimito, Panama.
Tears that watched a scrawny poor boy make his own glove by harvesting cardboard and balls of fishing net to form a baseball.
Tears that resembled the tears that Mariano Rivera’s eyes hopelessly shed in his hotel room in the minor leagues, thousands of miles away from the only home he had ever known and away from the people he loved most in this world.
Tears that watched Rivera run and collapse on the mound to give thanks to God just seconds after Aaron Boone hit a game-winning home run in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series.
Tears that saw Mariano Rivera’s head sink into the shoulder of teammate Andy Pettitte on the night he stepped off the mound for the final time.
These were tears that came from a woman who watched her very own become the greatest of All-Time.
This connection between a country man and his people went beyond the halls of Cooperstown, so much so, Rivera spoke briefly and directly to the people of Panama in Español in his induction speech:
“To my lovely Panama. Something special that I learned to do was always represent Panama … To all of the people in Puerto Caimito that is listening to me, all of those who are watching this on television or hearing it by radio, thank you, you are special to me. All the children who are listening to me and all the provinces of Panama, thank you for your continuous support, I love you a lot, thank you for all the support you’ve given. I’m sorry you can’t be here. To all the people of Panama, all of Latin American fans, this is for you, thank you. I love you all for a very special moment, God bless you in the best ways, thank you for sharing this with me. Thank you for allowing me to grow in that beautiful province and the people of Puerto Caimito, the family I have in Puerto Caimito, thank you, they showed me how to live, to accept the values, thank you for the way in which you helped bring me up.” — Mariano Rivera, National Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2019
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