Baseball legend Mariano Rivera receives Medal of Freedom from Trump
Panamanian-American former baseball pitcher Mariano Rivera (r) shakes hands with President Donald Trump (l) at a White House ceremony at which the president awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom on 16 September 2019. EFE/EPA/JIM LO SCALZO
Panamanian-American former baseball pitcher Mariano Rivera (r) receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Donald Trump (l) at the White House on 16 September 2019. EFE/EPA/JIM LO SCALZO
Panamanian-American former baseball pitcher Mariano Rivera smiles after President Donald Trump (not pictured) presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House on 16 September 2019. EFE/EPA/JIM LO SCALZO
Washington, Sep 16 (efe-epa).- Panama-born baseball legend Mariano Rivera, the former New York Yankees pitcher, on Monday received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Donald Trump, who called him "the most dominant relief pitcher in the history of baseball."
"For me, it's an honor and a privilege to receive this award, this Medal of Freedom," Rivera said in his acceptance remarks, clearly emotional over the honor. "All I did was try to be the best and do the best for America."
Also attending the White House ceremony were Rivera's family, along with Vice President Mike Pence and first lady Melania Trump.
The 49-year-old Rivera, who became a nationalized US citizen in 2015, emphasized his "pride" in being an American at the same time he recalled his difficulties in integrating himself into the country when he arrived from Panama not knowing how to speak English.
Before devoting himself to baseball, he had worked along with his father as a fisherman and studied to become a mechanic.
Rivera was the first player in the Major Leagues to be elected unanimously to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Born in Puerto Caimito, a small Panamanian village, he was discovered at age 20 by a talent scout for the Yankees in Panama, who urged him to come to the US to play ball.
The rest is history.
While playing for the Yankees, he won five World Series, was selected Most Valuable Player in the 1999 World Series, participated in 13 All-Star games and in 2003 was named the American League's MVP.
He became the best closer that the Yankees had had through 2003, when he announced his retirement.
Meanwhile, Trump said of Rivera at the White House ceremony that he "has made extraordinary contributions to American sports, culture and society. He is the most dominant relief pitcher in the history of baseball, and more than that, he has lived the American dream and shines as an example of American greatness for all to see."
The president also emphasized Rivera's religious faith, and in a statement issued by the White House, the president's press office praised his work off the field through the Mariano Rivera Foundation, via which he has helped to provide education and inspiration to low-income children.
Rivera, a personal friend of Trump's for years, is the co-chair of the President's Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition and is the sixth athlete to be awarded the Medal of Freedom since Trump entered office in 2017.
Other athletes who have received the honor are golfer Tiger Woods, basketball players Jerry West and Bob Cousy and US football great Roger Staubach, along with baseball icon Babe Ruth.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom was created by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 to honor the work of people - whether US citizens or not - who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."