By Mike Harrington
TORONTO -- The Yankees and Blue Jays meet in the middle game of their three-game series tonight and a lot has gone here this afternoon in Rogers Centre before a pitch has been thrown.
Be sure to read my column in Wednesday's Buffalo News about Mariano Rivera's meet-and-greet Q&A with Blue Jays employees. Twenty members of the staff, most of them not related to the actual playing of the game, met with Rivera and Yankees PR head Jason Zillo in a third-floor conference room for about 45 minutes talking about baseball, life, his retirement plans and his thoughts on his career.
Rivera is doing this in every city on his farewell tour over his final season as a way to say thank you to all the people who make baseball games possible.
"It is been a privilege for me to be in baseball," Rivera said. "I want to make sure I say thank you to all of those involved. I want to make sure I thank you guys for what you do in baseball, to help us prepare for every day."
I've been at plenty of great games in my career, including some of Rivera's greatest triumphs and greatest failures. This was as riveting as any of them. It was an unvarnished chance to listen to a man who is one of the game's greatest ambassadors.
And he talked about everything: The evolution of the cutter, his toughest hitter to face (Edgar Martinez), his post-retirement plans (fishing and hanging out with his family, perhaps even in his pajamas), and even his favorite mascot (he liked the Mariner Moose).
The most emotional moments were saved for his thoughts on the late George Steinbrenner, particularly how The Boss came up to him after he lost Game Seven of the 2001 World Series in Arizona.
"The first one that came to my locker was the Boss," Rivera said. "He looked at me and I looked straight at his face and I said, 'Boss, I gave my best and my best wasn't good enough tonight.' And he said I know and he hugged me and I hugged him. To me that was George Steinbrenner.
"If there was something I could change, I wish he could be alive so I can say thank you for all he did for me."
In other news, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos announced that manager John Gibbons is staying next season and that puts an end to lots of talk that really began over the weekend as the team was struggling in Houston. Fair enough. Gibbons has his faults (the team is pretty fundamentally lax) but he's a solid guy liked by the players and front office.
Moreover, I'd like to see how Gibbons does when the players aren't either a) underachieving or b) hurt. Anthopoulos said today there will be changes next year so this will be a last chance.
Moises Sierra, Ryan Goins and Kevin Pillar are all in the Blue Jays lineup again. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez both in the lineup for the Yankees, with A-Rod moved up to fifth after last night's home run.
(Rivera picture above left courtesy of John Lott/National Post)
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