Mariano Rivera has flown on countless flights to travel in his 19-year career, but now the Yankees closer has his very own plane.
In a ceremony at John F. Kennedy Airport Friday morning, Delta Air Lines dedicated a 757 aircraft with his No. 42 jersey and signature on it. Delta also gave Rivera a model replica of the plane, and upon receiving it, he showed no signs of being 43 years old when he shouted: “I got my own plane!”
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It was the first time ever that Delta had done a plane dedication in New York, and Delta executive Gail Grimmett said she can count on one hand the number of times the company has dedicated a plane in the past 10 years, period.
“You couldn’t get a better person — a more priceless person to be able to do our very first New York plane dedication,” she said. “You have given so much to the fans here in New York.”
Accompanying Rivera was manager Joe Girardi, who joked that Rivera was hoping to take home the aircraft.
“Gail, I’m glad you cleared that up because every city we go to for the last time, they give Mo a gift, and he got a gift in Minnesota, it was a rocking chair — the ‘Chair of Broken Dreams’ — and it was made of bats,” Girardi said. “So Mo would’ve tried to figure out how he was going to get this to his house, but now he can just take [the model], and he can carry it himself.”
But Girardi said he wouldn’t put it past Rivera to take the real plane.
“He’ll try to put it in his backyard, I’m sure. I don’t know how he’s going to have it fly, but I’m sure Mo would like to keep this for a while.”
After unveiling the plane to the tune of “Enter Sandman” — the song Rivera enters to from the bullpen — the former batterymates took part in a ceremonial last pitch together. Rivera, of course, threw a perfect strike to Girardi, who won three World Series rings with Mo as a player.
“That man to me has been a blessing,” Rivera said of Girardi. “This man has been a teammate, a friend, a manager — everything.”
Girardi said the last pitch brought back many fond memories.
“I had a chance to catch him when he burst on the scene in 1996, and he was so dominant,” he said. “I miss those days. I don’t miss playing every day, but I miss catching Mo.”
The plane dedication coincides with Rivera’s 13th and final All-Star Game appearance at Citi Field on Tuesday, which he said made it extra special.
“Everything going at the same time for the last year of me representing New York on the All-Star team for the last time, and I have this, it’s a privilege.”