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"What a great and wonderful experience it was being with the New York Yankee players, fans and especially with the Panamanian Sensation and future hall of famer Mariano Rivera, number 42, in Game 3 of ALDS. This is something that you will never forget in your entire life and you always will be remember it forever.

When I go to my hometown, La Chorrera, Panama, after the World Series, I will share this experience and good time with my family and close friends. We will celebrate the Yankees sweep of the Twins, have a drink with Seco Herrerano and eat the good Panamanian dishes, such as bollos, tamales, sancocho, ceviche and barbeque."

Moises Young Diaz

"Mariano is the one of the greatest closers in the history of baseball. The most effective closer in postseason baseball history, recording final outs in three Yankees' World Series.

One of my biggest thrills came when, for Game 5 of the 2000 World Series at Shea Stadium, I was invited by Mariano Rivera and family to see the clinching of the 2000 W.S. and being with his family and New York Yankees players in the field. I keep the ticket stub; photos; souveniers and WS championship parade ticket at City Hall Park in a special room in my house."

Moises Young Diaz

"I went to New York on Friday, July 31st, 2006 and returned home on my birthday, August 2nd, in the mid afternoon. Uncle Mike and I had spoke in June and he mentioned that he was going to New York for a couple of days in August to see the Yankees play and to see a Broadway show. Aunt Rae and Mike Jr. were coming with him, but Amy, their daughter, had to work and was unable to come. Long story short, there was an extra ticket to the Yankees game on Monday, August 1st and he graciously offered the ticket to me. The Yankees were playing Toronto. I was very excited as the tickets included an afternoon stadium tour which allowed us to go to Monument Park. I gladly accepted the invitation and made the necessary travel arrangements as soon as I got off the phone with Uncle Mike.

I worked Monday, 7/31 as it was the end of the month. After work, I took a flight from Charlotte to LaGuardia. I met Uncle Mike and family at the LaGuardia airport and we took a taxi cab to the Belvedere Hotel where we were staying. The taxi cab ride is another story by itself. The ride was better than any amusement park ride I had be on in the last decade. After I secured a 2nd mortgage on my home, we paid the cabbie. Twenty six dollars was my part of the cab ride to the hotel. We checked into the hotel than went to sleep as the game was the next day and it was very late upon our arrival to the hotel.

The next day we had a continental breakfast and then headed to the subway to travel down to the Bronx. It was brutally hot. We arrived at the stadium and than started on the tour. They took us to the bleachers behind the third base line (as it was shaded there) and the tour director gave us a detailed history of the New York Yankees. The next part of the tour was to walk through Monument Park. That part of the tour was very cool as all of our heroes were back there plus an incredible monument dedicated to all the people who lost their lives in 9/11. We saw "The Babe," Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Thurman Munson to name a few. The final leg of the tour took us to the dug out, the press box and finally the Stadium Store, the place where all good tours should end!

The tour ended at 3 p.m. Uncle Mike, Mike Jr. and Aunt Rae were hot and tired and they decided to go find a place for lunch. I know Uncle Mike was ready for a cold one and some air conditioning. They asked me to join them, but I declined as I had a separate agenda of my own. I had not traveled hundreds of miles to Yankee Stadium not to obtain an autograph.

Note to readers: I had gone to Dick's Sporting goods prior to his trip and had purchased two Major League baseballs, with case and one black sharpie with the hopes of getting a signed autograph. One ball was for Scott and the other for Uncle Mike.

As they left for lunch, I walked to the entrance of the stadium parking lot to wait for the baseball players to start coming to the ball park for batting practice. The first Yankee to show up was there new acquisition Bobby Abreu. We all screamed for him to come over and talk with us, but no such luck as it was a hundred degree's where I was and he just was not going to walk over towards us in that type of heat. Nor was Jeter, A-Rod or Giambi who were the next three players to walk into the stadium. Amongst all of us autograph seekers there was a well dressed black gentleman. His name was Henry. Henry sported a very nice Yankees hat and he liked telling everyone when the Yankee players were coming in and what they were driving. I learned very quickly that he was very accurate and knew what he was talking about. This must have been his full time job. There was one of New York's finest patrolling the crowd and we were mandated behind several metal gates that reminded me of the old school bicycle racks that we used in grade school. His job was to let NO ONE near the players - bottom line. After being out there a couple of hours in the sweltering heat, that realization finally hit me.

I would have had better luck trying to sell a lottery ticket to Donald Trump! But, back to the story.

Henry was still out there and so were the real die hard autograph seekers. Henry had been quiet for a long while and then out of the blue he yelled: "Here comes the Sandman, here comes the Sandman! He is driving a convertible white Lexus worth about 60K". I turned my head and no doubt it was Mariano Rivera.

That's was when I made my move.

I waited anxiously for Mariano to drive into the parking lot, park his car, grab his stuff and start walking towards the stadium entrance. As he began, I told the police officer that was controlling the crowd that it was too hot for me to stand here any longer and that I wanted to leave to go meet back up with my Aunt and Uncle. He let me through. As I was walking from right to left, Mariano was walking towards the stadium. I caught his reflection in the corner of my left eye as he was walking out from the parking lot. He was getting closer. I continued walking as the cop was watching my every move. I kept on walking, very slowly and then, without reason, I banged a u-turn and positioned myself right in front of him. I was the only thing between him and the entrance to Yankee Stadium! I said to him, "I traveled all the way from South Carolina to come see you play. Tomorrow is my 42nd birthday. Would you mind signing my ball?" I waited anxiously for his response, as did my other friends I had left back at the bicycle racks. He was a huge man who towered over me like I was a midget. He made me nervous as I dropped the sharpie on the ground as he approached me. He had two choices: he could walk on by me or sign the ball. To my surprise he put down his bag and very humbly signed my ball! It made my day! He had huge hands as I shook his hand and thanked him for signing my ball. The other autograph seekers applauded me in the background.

I walked away from the stadium, and as I did I glanced back at the officer and winked at him, knowing full well that I would be unable to return back to the front of the stadium for the remainder of my trip in New York.

My trip had been made but the surprises were not over.

I met back with Uncle Mike and Aunt Rae at a sports bar just up the street from the stadium. Uncle Mike was flabbergasted, not knowing what to say when I showed him my prize. He could not believe that I was able to get Mariano Rivera's signature. We finished lunch and it was 2 hours before game time, so we started to the stadium so we could see batting practice. We stopped at a local vendor and picked up a couple of new Yankee shirts for our collection. Unbeknownst to me, my Aunt and Uncle had traded up their tickets for better seats as a birthday surprise for me! We now had seats about 6 rows from the right of home plate behind the Yankees dugout. They were great seats! The aura of Yankee stadium was just the same since as the last time I was there over fifteen years ago. The excitement of all the Yankees fans, Dads with their sons and daughters taking in a game, the smell of fresh peanuts and pretzels and the seventh inning stretch. It brought back memories of my own father taking me to games and always speaking of perfection and execution. Dad always believed that those two ingredients and some decent pitching were the keys to securing a championship. The Yanks ended up winning that game 4-2. The next day the Yankees secured first place and have been in first place ever since then. Even though the trip went by quickly, it will be a memory that I will cherish forever.

As the Master Card commercial goes:

Two Major League baseballs and one Sharpie: $40.00.
Four tickets to see the Yankees play: $200.00 dollars.
Great seats with your Aunt, Uncle and nephew, a Yankees win and a signed baseball from Mariano Rivera: Priceless!

I hope that I did not bore you too much with my story. I just wanted to share.

Mr. Rivera: THANK YOU so very much for making my short trip to New York a memorable one! Other than the Yankees taking hold of first place, meeting you and getting your autograph was the highlight of my trip. You are the best closer that I have ever watched pitch in MLB. That includes the Goose, Rich Gossage.

Again, thank you."

Scott R. Salomone

"The day had finally come. On the morning of December 10, 2005, I awoke, knowing who I'd be seeing later on that day - my favorite Yankee, Mariano Rivera. A World Series champion, the Sandman, one of the most feared pitchers in baseball history would be standing in front of me.

After sitting in the back seat as my parents drove my sister and I to one of the many sports stores in upstate New York, I had to wait on a line for two hours. We had arrived early and Mariano wouldn't be signing just yet. Those hours were some of the most anxious in my life - contemplating what to say and how to act when they finally opened the door and let my family inside.

Thoughts of telling him how great I thought he is and how much I like the Yankees fluttered through my head, but they were of no use to me once I saw him. The words escaped my mind; I almost felt lightheaded as I waited only another mere few minutes, now inside the shop.

Finally, it was my turn. I walked up to him, saying, "Hi, Mr. Rivera, nice to meet you." He said it was nice meeting me as well. As he signed my 8x10 photo, I couldn't speak. I only stood there, watching in awe. Mariano Rivera was standing in front of me! I tried to say something, but the words wouldn't form into a sentence in my head, so I simply kept quiet, gawking at the Yankee closer.

Following that, I took a quick picture with him. I then shook his hand, thanked him, and told him I'd see him next season.

Such a simple encounter like that gave me such great joy on that December afternoon. It made me realize that we watch these athletes perform at the highest level on television, dreaming to one day meet our favorite stars. But, if and when we do get that special chance, it feels surreal to us, often overwhelming.

It was no surprise to me nor to any of my family members that I couldn't speak clearly for the next half hour. A few minutes with Mariano Rivera created happiness for me that may very well last a lifetime."

Samantha Scicchigno

"On May 18th 2004, I woke up promptly at 9 a.m. to watch Live with Regis and Kelly, like I always do when I can. That day Regis happened to talk about mistaking a Starbucks vanilla bean frappuccino for a vanilla latte and kept saying how good the frappuccino was. I made a mental note to try one if I was ever in Starbucks.

Later that day I went to the Hilton Towers hotel in Anaheim California to see the Yankees as they left to go to the game as I had done the year before. At about 2 o'clock, it got quiet and no one was really coming out so my mom, my sister and I decided to take a break and go to the bathroom and maybe get a drink. At first, I was not going to go because I was afraid I would miss someone, but then I figured that I could at least try the vanilla frappuccino that I heard Regis talking about.

As we waited for our drinks, I was talking about all the people I had seen and how cool it was, when all of a sudden I turned around and I am facing Mariano Rivera. My first reaction was "oh my gosh that's Mariano Rivera" then my manners came back to me. I remembered how they must hate to have people around them bugging them everywhere they went. Also, the fact that Mariano gave me a petrified look when he saw me in my Yankee jersey, like he was overwhelmed, so I didn't go talk to him; just gawked at him from afar.

Tara could not believe I was just going to let him walk away, so as he was getting his coffee and putting sugar and cream in it, she walks right up to him. I sat there as she says, "Hi, my sister is a huge Yankees fan but she is kinda shy." He looks at her and laughs, saying "oh really?" and she replied, "Yeah and she would appreciate it if you could sign something for her." Then Tara walks back to the table and we all look at him then each other like "It's really him". After he stirs his coffee he walks over and asks me what I wanted him to sign. I asked him to sign a baseball and I told him I didn't want to bother him but my sister is kinda rude." He laughed then I asked him if he would take a picture with me, really quick. He said sure, as long as it was really quick. I was shaking because I was so excited. I could not believe that I was talking to Mariano Rivera, the best closing pitcher is the history of the game.

I walked back to the designated area for fans and a fan I had met earlier that morning looked at me and said. "You missed Mariano, but don't feel bad, he didn't sign for anyone." I smiled and said "Actually I saw him in Starbucks and he signed for me and took a picture with me." For the rest of the day I was very happy."

April Johnson

"I was watching the last game of the 1999 World Series and I couldn't help chuckling as I saw what Magnificent Mo was doing to the Atlanta batters. Case in point: Ryan Klesko. He came to bat. Mo ran the count to 2-and-0 and then the fun began. He went after Klesko with that high-90s buzz saw he calls a cut fastball. Klesko swung, fouled it off, broke his bat and had to go back to the dugout to get a new one. He came back to the plate. Mo came in there with another cutter. Klesko swung, fouled that one off ---BROKE HIS BAT--- and had to return to the dugout to get a third bat. He came back to the plate. Mo missed with the next one to run the count to 3-and-2, and it was obvious that he meant to miss the plate with that one. Then he came in with still another cutter. Klesko swung ---hit a weak infield pop-up--- AND BROKE THAT BAT!!! Four cut fastballs, three broken bats. I am convinced that Mariano Rivera leads the major leagues in broken bats as well as incredible saves.

I have had many opportunities to watch this unbelievable pitcher in action. They say he's a one-pitch pitcher --- but what a pitch! It comes after the hitters and comes after them and comes after them and they try to get away from it and it keeps on boring in on their hands and when they swing it's in self-defense and they foul it off or miss it altogether. An out --- AND A BROKEN BAT. I wish I had that cut fastball. But I never had that kind of speed. So I get my satisfaction from watching him --- and recently I have noticed another element in his pitching, one that wasn't there at the beginning of the season. It's a certain ferocity, a savagery that I've never seen before. He seems to have turned everything up a couple of notches; he just goes after the hitters, not caring how he gets those outs --- he just gets them. On one of these occasions he struck out the side, no ifs, ands or buts --- ten pitches. (He threw one pitch for a ball, and I'll bet it wasn't the cutter.) He's the best thing that has happened to the Yankees in years and I know I can breathe easier when he comes into the game --- he is absolutely lights out. ALL HAIL, MAGNIFICENT MO!!!"

Zita Carno

"My biggest thrill came 4 years ago when I took my two sons for a road trip to Hillside Auto Mall in Jersey. Neither of them knew what we were doing there, except to buy a car.

When I explained that our #1 player was about to sign autographs, well, the expression on their faces was worth the trip.

I remember when our turn came up and I was ready with my greetings and how I was going to ask him how did it feel to be named World Series M.V.P.(1999)?

When I got in front of him: zilch, nada, didali, squat, bupkuss, nothing came out of my mouth except ahh, ahhh... and as soon as we got our pictures signed... it was all over.

What an experience it was for us. We will never forget it. "

The Figueroas

"It was October 13, 1998 at the stadium. It was the first postseason game I had ever been to. I've heard that Game 7 against the Red Sox last year (2003) was noisy, but I can truly say that that night the place rocked.

David Cone didn't have his best stuff. He struck out Jim Thome with the bases loaded in the first inning to a huge ovation. Later in the game, Thome came up with the bags loaded again and Thome went deep to cut the Yankees lead to one run.

Jeter came up with a huge two run triple later in the game.

Even though the Yankees were leading by four runs, The Sandman entered anyway.

If I recall, he faced Enrique Wilson, Kenny Lofton and then Omar Vizquel. I think Wilson grounded out, he then struck out Lofton on three pitches and then Vizquel bounced back to Mo for the final out.

The place went wild. I had heard all my life that there is nothing like post season baseball. The crowd hangs on every pitch. How fitting that Mo was on the mound at the end of my first postseason game.

To all of us who love and admire him, there aren't enough accolades to describe his greatness.

After the 2001 World Series, how many times did they replay the Luis Gonzalez single over the Yankees drawn in infield to conclude the World Series? Remember, Mo did make a key throwing error on the bunt. However, he also broke three bats which resulted in hits. It just wasn't his day. Do they constantly replay each of his 30 postseason saves and his wins? The Yankee haters really did him an injustice in this regard.

I watched him last night go through Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Lee and Paul Konerko with three very easy ground balls. He has given all of us as Yankees fans so many thrills and hours of excitement.

I can't wait for his induction to the Hall of Fame so that I can be there."

David Williams

"Mariano Rivera is a special ballplayer. There is an air and class about him that few players have, especially in today's day and age. There is a mystique, an aura. He exudes confidence and grace, as much as a ball player can, yet offends no one and lacks arrogance. He quietly walks out to the mound and quietly goes about his business. He doesn't get ejected from games for hitting people. He doesn't argue with the umpires. He doesn't shout obscenities toward the other team's dugout. He quietly does his job and he does it very, very well.

He is remarkably clutch. There is no pitcher I would rather have on the mound in the 9th inning of game 7 than Mariano Rivera. Some say that his stats are so good because he is a Yankee. Keep this in mind - being a Yankee doesn't help you with your ERA. Yankee Stadium is not a "pitchers park" and the Yankees defense hasn't been anything spectacular (they ranked 2nd, 7th, 9th, 13th, 17th, 15th, 25th and 24th in fielding percentage from 1996 through 2003). So, when it comes to his ERA, that's a great pitcher pitching greatly. Mariano would be a great, great pitcher on any team.

Dignity, class, talent, execution… this is why I like Mariano Rivera so much."

Patrick O'Keefe

"Mariano Rivera is, without a doubt, the greatest closer in the history of baseball. He clearly has the stats to back that claim up. Since he came upon the scene in 1996, he has been dominant. Even after 7 yrs, he is still unhitable. Last year he had the lowest ERA of his career, a miniscule 1.66. What is even more impressive than his regular season stats is his postseason dominance. I don't think anyone can dispute that his postseason performance has been down right sick. He has 30 postseason saves and is 7-1. His Division Series ERA is a ridiculous 0.27. Someone recently made the statement to me that yes, he is amazing, but he is aided by the fact that the Yankees have been so good, that if he was on Milwaukee, he'd just be good. My reaction to that statement was that one's greatness is measured by the greatness of those around him. The fact that the Yankees get to the playoffs every year and he is as dominating consistently as he is on the big stage, makes him that much more greater. I think what is also great about the guy is the calm that he has and how he comes back from adversity. He is human, afterall, and has had 2 very big blown saves in 1997 and 2001, but he comes back better then ever. I think the crowning achievement of his brilliance was last year when he pitched 3 brilliant innings in Game 7 against the Sox in the ALCS. After Aaron Boone's HR to win it, Mariano collapsed on the mound in a combination of celebration and exhaustion. It was a scene that could have never been planned, just a spontaneous act of the circumstance. It was one of the greatest reactions in sports and a memory that I'll have forever."

Greg Shonek