JANIE McCAULEY AP Baseball Writer
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ Posing as a pizza delivery man, New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera surprised longtime Athletics employee Julie Vasconcellos by visiting her in the mail room where she has worked going on 25 years.
Rivera carried in a pizza box Wednesday night and brought Vasconcellos to tears as he thanked her for 21/2 decades of hard work behind the scenes.
“This is my way to say thank you, thank you for what you do,” Rivera told Vasconcellos, who declined to give her age other than “old.” “Twenty-five years, Julie, that’s great! You’re special, Julie, that’s what it is. People here love you.”
Rivera signed a ball for Vasconcellos, gave her several hugs and posed for photos _ then he stuck around to chat for another 10 minutes or so.
“Oh, my heart’s going to town, oh my God,” said Vasconcellos, who had to sit down at one point. “I’m shaking. … Oh, this is too funny, thank you.”
Rivera asked if she was OK, to which she responded, “I’m just shocked. I’m never going to forget your face again.”
He chuckled at that one.
The 43-year-old Rivera said this is the most creative display of appreciation yet during his farewell tour before he heads into retirement after his 19th major league season.
He’s doing similar things in each city, getting a thrill in each stop by making one person’s day.
“Oh, I love it, yes. I’m enjoying every minute,” Rivera said. “They all have their own personality. I decided before spring training that I wanted to do something different and make sure I said thanks to the fans _ not just the regular fans, but also those behind the scenes, like Julie, who has been here (more than) 20 years. That’s wonderful.”
Rivera, in his gray Yankees uniform before Wednesday night’s game against the A’s, entered the room where Vasconcellos works as A’s personnel told her she had a new trainee on her hands.
“Whew, this is really something,” Vasconcellos said. “In grammar school, we could only get the Yankees on our PA system. I grew up here, but there was no Oakland team yet.”
These two, strangers turned friends, do share one thing in common: pending retirement.
“I love my job, but I hope to retire soon,” Vasconcellos said.
“I’m done, Julie,” Rivera replied with a smile.
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