Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Book Review - The Closer by Mariano Rivera and Wayne Coffey

I am not a really big baseball fan. I don't know much about the game at all, in fact, so I didn't expect to love this book. But I did. Written in the voice of the man himself, the text is engaging, I think perhaps because it is told in a simple style that reveals the character of Rivera himself. He is a man who practiced humility and shunned the temptations of success. The story is inspiring, particularly as Rivera continually gives glory to Jesus as his career begins to take off. Read the information below to get a picture of the man and his career - then read the book.

‘The Closer’ Wins With the Story of a Lifetime

New York - The greatest relief pitcher of all time shares his extraordinary story of survival, love, and Baseball. In September 2013, Mariano Rivera left the field to a stadium soaked in well-deserved applause. He retired as “the best reliever in the game in history,” as Relief Pitcher Trevor Hoffman puts it. Now, he tells the story of how God brought him from Puerto Caimito, Panama, to Major League Baseball in The Closer (May 2014 Little Brown & Co.).

As a boy, he played baseball on the beach at low tide. He and his friends would cut three holes in a piece of cardboard, set it on a frame, and see who could throw the most make-shift balls through the holes. He learned he had good aim. Years later, a local coach and part-time scout for the Yankees saw him pitch at tryouts and made an offer. The fisherman’s son was going to the minor leagues in Tampa, Florida.

Rivera learned many things as he continued to perform for his coaches, including how to speak English, but one thing stood out: God had blessed him with major league skill. “He wants my pitching to help spread the good news about the Gospel of Jesus.” His signature pitch, his own brand of fastball, came to him out of the blue. He even tried to straighten it out, until he realized it was a gift.

“You know how many times I’ve gone out to the mound thinking, ‘This guy has no shot, because I am Mariano Rivera?’” he asks. “Never. The guy with the bat in his hand is a professional. He is trying just as hard to get a hit as I am trying to get him out. I respect that.”

With many honest details about his emotions, successes, failures, and the words of his teammates, Rivera describes his career as the New York Yankees primary relief pitcher.  He offers a glimpse inside the locker room before the 2001 World Series, which they lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 7. He talks about many players, such as Derek Jeter and Paul O’Neill, the last game played in the old Yankee Stadium at 161st Street and River Avenue, and the many prayers he spoke during and between games.

He is the last man to wear the legendary Jackie Robinson’s number, 42. “I don’t know if any person can match that standard, living up to the measure of a man who changed the world. I am a simple man who measures his impact in a smaller way: by being a humble servant of the Lord, and trying to do my best to treat people—and play the game—in the right way.”

The Closer is the story of the man Yankees General Manager Joe Torre called “the best I’ve ever been around.” It’s the well-paced, intimate testimony of a legendary baseball player and faithful family man that ends with a look toward the future. Rivera is investing in his community, trying to inspire kids who may feel they haven’t got a shot at doing anything worthwhile. While this isn’t the end of his life, Rivera is already trying to close well.

The Closer
Mariano Rivera
Little, Brown & Company
ISBN: 9780316400732/ Hardcover/ May 6, 2014

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