Yankees legend Mariano Rivera honored as March of Dimes Sportsman of the Year

New York, NY — Sure, the Red Sox won the World Series while the Yankees stayed home in October for the first time since 2008, but in many ways 2013 seemed like the Year of Mariano Rivera. The New York Yankees legend and all-time saves leader in baseball retired after 19 seasons and had a memorable farewell tour throughout Major League Baseball befitting the last man to wear number 42 on the baseball diamond. Rivera continued his season of accolades and appreciation as the March of Dimes Sportsman of the Year at a luncheon at the Waldorf Astoria in New York on Wednesday afternoon.

The annual March of Dimes luncheon brings out a who’s who of sports and broadcasting when it honors outstanding achievements of men and women in the sports industry. Along with Rivera, WNBA star and former All-American at Notre Dame Skylar Diggins was also honored as Sportswoman of the Year. Past recipients have included Yankees manager Joe Girardi, NBA commissioner David Stern, baseball legends Mickey Mantle and Cal Ripken, Jr. and Patrick Ewing. Luminaries spotted at this year’s luncheon included Deputy NBA commissioner Adam Silver, CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus (chair of the luncheon since 1997), NBC Sports broadcaster Bob Costas, Ian Eagle, Bill Raftery, Yankees’ play by play announcer Michael Kay, former Steelers head coach (and now CBS broadcaster) Bill Cowher, former Giants linebacker Harry Carson and many others. This year’s luncheon will raise over $1 million for the nonprofit organization to work towards baby health and preventing birth defects.

Members of the media had a few minutes to chat with the legendary Yankees closer, who is known as much for his dominance on the pitchers mound as his devotion to community service off the field. The future Hall of Famer talked about the importance of his community service, using his platform for good and what’s next for him after baseball.

On helping the March of Dimes:

“The March of Dimes helping these babies, to help these families, the money we’re raising is for a great cause. And me being here, it’s an honor and a pleasure because we’re helping others, giving back and that’s what it’s all about, giving back. When it’s like that, I’m always in.”

On using his baseball fame as a platform for doing good:

“Using it right. I don’t want to use it to do something else that doesn’t bring privilege and honor and help and I want to use it right. An event like this is a worthy cause, for me it’s a no doubter. When Joe Torre presented to me, he told me, I said, “I’m in’ and we’re here. I have a lot of things to do, my Christmas is tough at home, but I’m here. My wife is kind of down, kind of sick, she was supposed to be here with me, but we had to make the sacrifices but God is good, God has helped me in amazing ways and has put me in great places with great human beings. For me to be here is an honor and a privilege.”

On leaving a lasting legacy off the field:

“On the field yes it’s good, but off the field is even better. Especially like this with March of Dimes is all about. That, like I said before, I’m all in. There’s something that has no price. What you do for these families and these babies has no price. I have my own. I always want my boys in my prayers to be healthy and safe and we need to pray that to the rest of the world, for kids to be safe.”

On the next chapter of his life:

“My next chapter of my life and my career is just helping others. We are about to open a church in New Rochelle [New York] that we are renovating. I will be involved with that in the community trying to help as much with them, try to teach the youngsters as many as we can. Not only them, but anybody that we can help. Again, this about life, it’s not about a game, it’s about life. Helping others is what I wanted to do. I’ve been blessed to give back.”

On potentially working in a baseball capacity:

“Not front office, maybe in minor leagues just helping as a special advisor for the youngsters.”

Photo via Amanda Rykoff