Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mariano Rivera won't stop shagging flies at Kauffman Stadium

Last Friday marked the one year anniversary of the worst moment of Mariano Rivera's brilliant career as baseball's all-time saves leader.  This Friday, Rivera returns to Kauffman Stadium — the first time since being carted off the field in what looked like a career-ending injury — for a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals.

Rivera tore the ACL in his right knee — during his pregame ritual of shagging flies in the outfield during batting practice — on the turf of Kauffman Stadium that fateful night before crumbling to the warning track in obvious pain.

This weekend, if shagging batting practice fly balls takes Rivera to the ballpark's left-center field warning track, the non-superstitious pitcher isn’t going to shy away from the area where he collapsed last May 3 ending up with season-ending surgery in June.

“Nothing will change, I will do what I love to do,’’ said the 43-year-old Rivera, who is a perfect 12-for-12 in save chances this season.

Rivera, who missed the final five months of last season, said he is looking forward to being at Kauffman Stadium again.

“I will thank the Lord for me being there,’’ Rivera said. “I want to see the doctor who took me to the hospital and say ‘Thank You.’ I am not going to feel sorry. I feel joy. There is nothing to regret. I might be in the same spot.’’

Rivera has been amazing so far in what was once considered an uncertain future.  He's made good on the well-documented words he said the day after the injury: "I am coming back. Put it down. Write it down in big letters. I am not going down like this."

He sure did.

“I don’t think any athlete, any player, wants to leave like that, unless there’s no other choice,” Rivera said. “But I did have a choice. My choice was to either stay like that, or work hard, get the surgery, get it fixed and come back. And that’s the one I took.”

Rivera might have erased the ghosts of the Kansas City outfield from his mind, but the memories of the Hall of Fame pitcher's greatest moments and "Enter Sandman" will always be etched in ours.

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