NEW YORK (AP) _ Mariano Rivera never figured this would be Derek Jeter’s final season.
“I didn’t see this coming at all. I didn’t see it,” the retired New York Yankees reliever said Wednesday. “For sure I was one of the guys that said they would have to pull his uniform off his body to take him out. But I was wrong, and this was a surprise to me.”
Rivera announced last March that 2013 would be his final season and was honored in every city the Yankees stopped in. Rivera, who turned 44 in November, had a record 652 saves in 19 seasons and 42 more in the postseason.
Jeter said this month that 2014 is his final year playing baseball. Rivera predicted Jeter’s farewell tour will be much like his own.
“It will be better,” Rivera said. “He deserves it. He has given everything for the game of baseball, and when you have a player like that, he deserves that and more.”
Rivera spoke Wednesday during a telephone conference call to promote a two-game exhibition series between the Yankees and Miami Marlins at Panama City on March 15-16. Rivera said he won’t pitch in the games, which are being played to benefit the Mariano Rivera Foundation. Proceeds from a gala dinner will go to Children’s Hospital in Panama City.
“I’m a little bit down because I would have loved to participate and compete while I was playing,” Rivera said. “I would have loved my people to see me play down there in Panama. But at the same time, I’m happy that the team is going there. Hopefully this will be the opening of doors so Panama can host some baseball, real baseball games during the season down in Panama.”
Rivera has been spending time working with his church and community groups.
“I’m doing exactly what I love to do,” he said. “Definitely I miss it. I’m not going to lie to you. I do miss baseball. But I need my family, too. I’m fine.”
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