Horse racing isn’t exactly the first love of New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera, who made his first appearance at the Saratoga Race Course on Friday.
“I’m afraid of those horses,” admitted Rivera, after he explained in a news conference that it was an honor and a pleasure to be at the track, where the third race of the day had been named for him.
His feelings about horses didn’t put off the dozens assembled around an administrative building, as word spread in the early afternoon that Rivera was holed up inside. What started as just a handful of anxiously waiting and dedicated Yankees fans, with inside knowledge about his itinerary, grew to include people running over from the backyard as his bald head could be seen emerging.
Dressed in a Yankees hat and watch, Albany resident Patty Tucker was one of the first people to gather outside the building and stood in her spot for more than a half-hour in anticipation of seeing the legend. People filled in around her and a line of security popped up in front of her, but she stood her ground, armed with a camera.
“It would really mean a lot to me,” Tucker said about the chance to be close enough to touch Rivera, who she regarded as the greatest closer in the history of Major League Baseball. He is a 12-time All Star, five-time world champion, has the most career regular-season saves and is considered a likely first-ballot Hall of Famer.
When Rivera did emerge, her wish was granted as he briefly made his way into the still-growing crowd.
He was then escorted to a tent near the paddock, where he received a proclamation from Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott Johnson. A Yankees fan himself, Johnson said it was a special honor to present Rivera with that recognition.
Categories: Schenectady County