Mariano Rivera retired this year with a record 652 saves and five World Series titles. (Kathy Willens/AP)
Mariano Rivera is retired but only from playing baseball. The greatest closer of all-time, who only weeks ago completed his Hall of Fame career with a 19th and final season in which he was deservedly celebrated as both a pitcher and a person, has immediately turned his attention to other pursuits. He is building a church called Refuge of Hope in New York's Westchester County, where he lives with his wife, Clara, the church's pastor, and their three sons. He is also working with his namesake foundation to provide computers to underprivileged communities in his native Panama, as well as support for hospitals and churches.
On Tuesday night, SI.com's Ted Keith sat down with Rivera for a brief interview before he took the stage at the Coast to Coast Legends Auction at the Times Center in midtown Manhattan. Star athletes like Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and David Ortiz contributed signed memorabilia to be auctioned off to raise money for the Mariano Rivera Foundation. The auction, which continues online through Dec. 9, is being run by Steiner Sports Memorabilia. For more information, go to www.steinersports.com.
SI.com: I understand the church is where you devote most of your energy now.
Mariano Rivera: Yeah, it is until I get it up and running. We're almost there, we just need another two or three weeks. The church will have 100 percent of my determination. I want to do something special and now I have the plan.
SI: How does the long process of building a church compare to going through a major league season?
MR: This is totally different. This is something that you'll use to help the community. It's special, not that my time playing baseball wasn't special.
SI: The last year certainly seemed to be. What did it mean to you to see the way you were treated everywhere you went this year?
MR: Amazing. The love and the respect that I received from my other peers and from my teammates was amazing. I can't put it into words. It was just amazing what I experienced. The gifts were great, but the respect . . . I didn't know it would be this kind of magnitude, especially when I pitched in Boston or other places.
SI: You were given gifts by each opposing team you visited. Have you had a chance to use your broken-bat rocking chair yet?
MR: (laughs) No, all that stuff is in storage at my house. I'm going to do a kind of museum there.
SI: So none of that stuff will be auctioned off I'm guessing?
MR: No, I'm going to keep it. This is a great cause to raise funds for the church. Guys were pretty generous to give me that stuff, bats, jerseys, even the sign we had in Kansas City.
SI: Has it sunk in yet that your baseball career is over?
MR: Oh yeah. That happened the last day I played at Yankee Stadium.
MR: No, I have not kept up with that and I don't plan to. I'm retired from everything, even that. Once I finish my season, I go about my business. If they ask me for something, though, I'll help.
SI: How about if they ask you to come back? Yankees manager Joe Girardi said maybe they would check in with you in the offseason.
MR: (laughs). No, my mind is not going to change.