The Yankees traveled to Panama Friday to take on the Marlins in the Legends Series at Rod Carew Stadium. The two-game series is the first Major League Baseball games in Panama since 1947. It’s also the first time in 2014 that Mariano Rivera was with the Yankees… but not as the best closer in baseball. This weekend, Mo played Yankee tour guide and ambassador.
A native of Panama and the country’s most recognizable face not only fulfilled his dream of hosting baseball in Panama but had the pleasure of having the Yankees visit his homeland. While the Yankees were no-hit Saturday afternoon against the Marlins in the opener, the Sandman was a huge hit off the field Friday.
Mo took The Boss’s daughter, Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal, team president Randy Levine, Joe Girardi, Brett Gardner, Kevin Long, Tony “Jala” Pena, Willie Randolph, David Robertson, and other Yankee front office members to the Panama Canal. They toured the Miraflores Locks site at the 100-year old international landmark.
Yankee outfielder Brett Gardner said the whole experience was “pretty overwhelming.” He wasn’t just talking about the canal but the aura and notoriety that Mo walks the streets. It’s as if he is royalty, which didn’t come as that much of a surprise to his former teammates. “He definitely carries as much clout as we figured,” Gardner further explained. It was just another day for Rivera but he knew that this tour was “special for the boys.”
Prior to the tour Friday afternoon, the all-time saves leader took longtime friend Derek Jeter and the man that has to fill his shoes, David Robertson, to a children’s hospital for a special visit. That evening Rivera played host to a private dinner party for 450 guests. It’s been a rather busy weekend for Panama’s gracious host.
This was a special trip for the Yankees as only players chosen by Girardi traveled with the team as others remained in Forida for split-squad games. Derek Jeter said there was no way he was missing this trip regardless of who Girardi picked. As two of the Core Four and friends for two decades, Jeter put it rather simply: “It’s important to Mo, so it’s important to me.”
Robertson is slated to make an appearance Sunday afternoon. Talk about pressure! D-Rob will be coming out of the bullpen, successor to the greatest closer of all-time, while Mo watches on on his own home turf. But Robertson understands what this trip really means. Yes, the Yankees are in Panama to play some baseball. But they are really there to support and pay homage to their former leader, teammate, and friend. Hopefully Sunday, the Yanks get some hits and pull out a win.