Mariano Rivera is a 13 time All-Star, the record-holder for career saves in baseball history, a World Series and ALCS MVP, and the owner of enough Championship rings to bling out his entire pitching hand. The only achievement that I have to my name, on the other hand, is seeing Andy Pettitte’s last game in person, and that time I tried, and failed, to eat a Crave Case. Yet, thanks to New Era, I was able to jump into the cage and take some cuts with the Sandman himself.
First, they outfitted me with a New Era Diamond Era cap, which is the latest in technological innovation and the same hat the Yankees wore on-field against the Mets for part of the Subway Series. They are super light and wick away sweat. They do not, however, allow you to easily hit the greatest closer in baseball history, as I found out.
Mariano obviously dialed it back for the bunch of media schlubs he was facing, but he wasn’t tossing meatballs either. The consensus was that the pitches were coming in at around 70-75 mph, especially since he was around 40 feet away from the plate, instead of the usual 60’6. You can get a taste of the heat from this video taken from outside the cage while Craig Carton took some cuts.
I stepped in the cage and saw the first pitch he threw come right down the pipe, before drifting in towards my hands as I swing under it; an authentic Mariano Rivera cutter. Mo razzed me a bit (“You gotta do better than that”) before throwing me a couple more swinging strikes. The catcher advised me that my swing was dipping a bit, putting me under the ball. After the adjustment, Mariano gave me a fat one on the plate that I turned on and smacked. The ball went towards the first base wall and I like to think it stayed inside the baseline. We’ll call it a single. Here’s the whole at-bat from a GoPro strapped to my helmet.
I was able to get some wood on the next one, which went all of nowhere, and then Mariano dialed it up a bit (I can’t tell you how hard I shuttered when he said “Ok, a little quicker now”) and I whiffed on three straight. But hey, there’s no shame in getting struck out by Mo.
Photos by Bryan Yablonsky / WireImage