Rivera enjoying retirement, time with family

08/07/2014 9:35 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Mariano Rivera sets to throw out the first pitch at Thursday's Trenton Thunder game.(David Schofield/Trenton Thunder)
TRENTON - It has been less than a year since Mariano Rivera walked off the Yankee Stadium mound for the final time, but that didn't make him any less nervous as he prepared to throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Double-A Trenton Thunder's game against Altoona on Thursday.

"I haven't thrown a ball in a long time so we'll see what happens," he joked. "It won't be a cutter, but it might break a bit!"

Rivera was in Trenton for the MVP Foundation's fourth annual philanthropy event at ARM & HAMMER Park, and he was honored with a $50,000 check for his Refugio de Esperanza (Refuge of Hope) church in New Rochelle, N.Y. as part of the night.

"It's a privilege to be here. Although I never played here, the Thunder are a part of the Yankees family, and if they're part of the Yankees, they're part of me," Rivera said. 

A capacity crowd swarmed upon ARM & HAMMER Park to see The Sandman, and while he admitted that he missed the atmosphere, he joked that was one of the only parts of being a professional athlete that he wishes he still experienced.

"I miss this and I miss my teammates and pitching, but the rest I don't," he laughed. "All the travel and everything, you guys can have that!"

As the cliché goes, 2014 is the first year of the rest of Rivera's life, and so far, retirement suits him just fine.

"I can't complain, it's wonderful to be home for the first time since I started playing 24 years ago," he said. "I'm enjoying being home with my wife and kids; I missed that for 24 years, and I thank God that I'm there."

Now that his pitching days are done, Rivera has been pouring his passion into his church, where his wife Clara serves as the pastor of a congregation whose mission is to be "a multicultural united body of believers committed to the revitalization of its community through acts of service and a genuine demonstration of God's love."

After starting the congregation in his home, Rivera purchased and renovated a large church near downtown New Rochelle that Refugio de Esperanza moved into earlier this summer,

"That's my passion, helping the community as much as I can and being there for others, and it's a blessing," he said. "We've been in the new church about four months, and it's wonderful. Seeing the people who come and get saved, it's amazing. We love what we're doing."

He also had the chance to be just like any other dad and watch his son play baseball; in this case, it was Mariano Jr. and his junior year at Iona, one that ended with the younger Rivera being a 29th-round draft pick of the Yankees in June.

"I was happy for him, and I think he earned it," he said of his son, who did not sign and will return to the Gaels for his senior season. "He's going back to school to finish his degree and play another year of baseball, so he will be more mature and a better player. He's progressing and working hard, so we'll see what happens next year."

Rivera wouldn't go as far as to offer his services as an "unofficial" coach, but he's glad that he's gotten the chance to see his offspring as he attempts to follow in his footsteps.

"I'm glad I saw my son play a little bit; again, I have opportunities I've never had before, so I'm enjoying it and thanking God for that," Mo said of the father-son time. "I hope I have more time next year!"

Chances are no matter what he will make that time, but there's one thing he assured everyone of: he has not spent any time enjoying the "Chair of Broken Dreams" the Twins gave him last season, the rocking chair the Yankees gifted him on Mariano Rivera Day, or any other parting gift that one might enjoy after their retirement.

As it stands, a lot of those gifts are the things doing most of the sitting, and Rivera is quite okay with that.

"I have so much stuff that I have, I have to make sure I have the right place for it!"

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