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Mariano Rivera on last regular-season game at Fenway Park: ‘Hopefully it’s not the last time’

09.15.13 at 8:17 pm ET
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Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, prior to a pregame ceremony at Fenway Park to honor his remarkable career, expressed his appreciation for the fact that his foremost rivals were celebrating his 19 big league seasons.

“It’s different. Let’s put it that way,” said Rivera. “I’m humbled and honored and I appreciate what they’re doing.”

He suggested that because his first time pitching in Fenway Park came so long ago — on July 16, 1996, he recorded two scoreless innings in a surgical 26 pitches in the first of his 55 regular-season games at Fenway — it was difficult to recall that day in sharp detail. Still, he expressed his affection for Fenway as a visitor, and the many memories he has of the park.

You come here to play against the Red Sox in Fenway, it’s always great games,” he said. “It’s never easy. It’s not. Big moments, big games, every game means something. The games are spectacular. … I always take this opportunity to remember where 19 years I played against the Red Sox. Trying to do my job, it’s not easy.”

In a sense, this is the second time that Rivera has been honored prior to a Red Sox game. The first came prior to the home opener in 2005, when Rivera was cheered at a time when he had blown some early season saves against the Red Sox, the year after he’d blown saves in Games 4 and 5 of the ALCS at Fenway as part of the Sox’ epic comeback that netted a return from a 3-0 deficit en route to Boston’s seven-game triumph in that series followed by the Sox’ first World Series title in 86 years.

“It was great,” Rivera said with a grin about that reception. “Hey, they won. You know? We don’t give it to them; I didn’t give it to them. They won.”

Of course, Rivera was on the winning side of more than a few games at Fenway at all, having saved 36 games in the regular season with a 2.54 ERA, and three more in the postseason (one in 1999, two more in 2003). And so, the closer spoke not just of what has been but, on a team that is 2 1/2 games out of a potential wild card spot, what might be. In short, while appreciative of the fact that he is being honored by the Red Sox and their fans, he remains hopeful that he might get future opportunities to play in Boston this coming October.

“It’s a blessing,” Rivera said of playing at Fenway. “Hopefully it’s not the last time. It’s a blessing to be here for so many years. It has been wonderful.”

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