Former Panamanian player of big leagues Mariano Rivera highlighted on Monday some of the history that has linked him to the number 42 of Jackie Robinson, and said that for him it is an honor to enter the Hall of Fame being the last player to have used it.
At his first press conference in Panama, after being selected to the Professional Baseball Hall of Fame in the US, Rivera said that the number was not the first one he wore on his back, but stated that "now I have the satisfaction of that I can enter the Hall of Fame being the last player to use the number 42".
Rivera recalled that when in 1995 he went to the big leagues with the New York Yankees, the first number they gave him was 58, and that was after they raised him again after being a couple of weeks in the minors when he started using the 42.
He also acknowledged that he had "no idea what it was or what the number 42 represented", and that it was not until they withdrew Robinson's number in the big leagues -in 1997- that he understood "who was the one who had worn that shirt and what it represented".
"Once I understood it, I took on the challenge, for me it was a challenge to represent the person of Jackie Robinson, a person who opened doors for us, as a minority, and allowed us to enter" in the baseball of the United States.
Precisely, the greatest rescuer of the Major Leagues with 652, yesterday made the throw of honor at the beginning of the Caribbean Series, which is played in his native Panama, with a shirt that showed the legendary number 42 on his back.
In an extensive press conference, Rivera talked about some details of his professional career, people who were key in it, teammates and also his election to the Hall of Fame.
In this last point, the one that was stellar of the New York Yankees, said he did not expect to be elected to the pavilion of Cooperstown with 100% of the 425 ballots, and he thought it would be with 99.8 or 99.9%.
However, the former baseball player, of Evangelic faith, said that "this is how God works and allowed it to be 100%", but said that the most important thing is to reach and achieve this goal and to think that "it is for Latin America" and for his country.
As to whether this record of being the first baseball player to be chosen to the Hall of Fame with the 100% is not maintained for long if his teammate in the Yankees Derek Jeter reaches it too, Rivera said: "Welcome, because he is a brother and a partner who grew up with me in minor leagues".
The former Yankees closer said that for him a record does not mean much "because records do not make a person, for me a person does the legacy he leaves, and for me Jeter has always been a brother, and if Jeter who is going to enter (also) with 100% is welcome, and for many others too".
The former bigleager also referred to the tribute that the Caribbean Series gave him on Monday, and said it is good that these tributes are made in life.
Rivera also faced a recurring question about why he did not wear the colors of Panama in regional tournaments, and explained that many things prevented him, such as injuries, but stressed that whenever he wore the Yankees shirt he did it "in name of Panama".
He mentioned the late Panamanian Carlos "Chico" Heron who opened the doors to professional baseball, by recommending him with the Yankees, as well as the Cuban ex-player Orlando "El Duque" Hernández, "from him I learned a lot" and George Steinbreiner, owner of the “Manhattan Mules", at the time.
By the way, Rivera urged the Panamanian authorities to support national baseball more, and called on the countries of the region to also support the Panamanians who play it.
Mariano Rivera will be exalted to the Hall of Fame on July 21, before which the former Panamanian former player said that he likes this time to enter two Hispanics at the same time for the first time, he and the Puerto Rican Edgar Martínez, whom he referred as "the hardest batter I faced in my career".