Iona righthander Mariano Rivera Jr. is ready for his close-up after being selected by the Nationals Tuesday in the fourth round of MLB Draft.
"I can't express how excited I am right now," said the son of the Yankees' legendary closer. "It's a different feeling because for the first time, it's for me -- I'm no longer just a spectator supporting my father. God willing, I have the opportunity for this to be my life now. It's going to be different."
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As for his dad's reaction? "He's happy for me; what father wouldn't be?"
Rivera, 5-11 and 155 pounds, was a walk-on at Quinnipiac as a freshman, where he did not play, then transferred to Iona. This season, he was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference pitcher of the year. He struck out 113 in 85 innings with a 2.65 ERA. He had six complete games and three shutouts in his 14 starts.
The Yankees drafted him 872nd overall last season but he decided to stay at Iona. "That's [one] thing less to compare me to my father," he said. "That's the only reason I'll be relieved, you can say, to not be a Yankee."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before Tuesday night's game against the Nationals, "I'm happy for him, and I'm sure it's a really proud moment for big Mo, and I hope the young man has a very successful career."
Added Nats star Bryce Harper: "It's awesome. I heard he throws pretty hard and has some pretty good stats."
Iona coach Pat Carey said it benefited Rivera to pitch another year in college. "Not only did he get drafted [higher], he graduated," Carey said. "The best thing he ever did was come back. I think for his growth as a pitcher, he's got that confidence and he's ready to move on."
Carey said Rivera's fastball is 95-97 miles per hour. He also throws a curveball, slider and is working on a changeup.
"This offseason, I made up my mind I wanted to play baseball. I wanted to make a name for myself," Rivera said. "I feel like that was the driving force to be in the position that I'm in now. I see myself as a starter until somebody says otherwise. I feel like I have the tools to do so."
When Rivera watched his son pitch, "my dad would come and talk to me, he would explain to me what I did wrong," he said, "but the next time, for the most part, it was on me."
Rivera wore No. 6 in college. Dad wore No. 42, Jackie Robinson's retired number. "Even if I could wear it. I want to be my own person," he said. "Obviously, I lived in the shadow of my father but that's OK. You know what? I've learned to step away from the shadow and create my own person."
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