“For sure, I was one of the guys that said they will have to pull his uniform off of his body to take him out,” Rivera said. “I was wrong. It was a surprise for me. But at the same time, if he’s happy, I’m happy. He wanted to move on and we have to respect that.”
And Rivera wants Jeter’s final season to be as memorable as his own. He hopes that Jeter stays healthy and enjoys every bit of his final year.
“I will be praying for Jeter, so he can stay healthy the whole year, so we can enjoy, really enjoy the actual farewell tour,” said Rivera, who had a similar season-long sendoff in 2013. “He has given everything for the game of baseball. When you have a player like that, he deserves that and more.”
Rivera knows the emotional ride that Jeter is about to take. Remember the tears he shed when Jeter and Andy Pettitte removed him from his final game? Since Jeter has always been a private player, it will be interesting to see how he reacts to the constant celebration and attention.
Ironically, it will call for a mental toughness that Jeter has frequently admired in Rivera.”He’s the most mentally tough person I’ve ever played with,” Jeter has said of Mo.
And look for Jeter to approach his final season and all the hype the way he has always approached his profession: always trying to find a way to make it fun.
“You gotta have fun, he has said. “Regardless of how you look at it, we’re playing a game. It’s a business, it’s our job, but I don’t think you can do well unless you’re having fun.”
And even though Rivera was surprised by the retirement announcement, it won’t be a surprise when he hugs the Captain on Derek Jeter Day.