It is getting more and more difficult for Mariano Rivera to drag himself to spring training.
And it has nothing to do with age taking its toll on the 41-year-old closer.
“The separation from the family gets harder and harder,” Rivera said Thursday morning.
Rivera arrived Wednesday night after missing the first three days of camp because his wife and three sons had the flu.
He said when he headed for the door with his bags packed Wednesday his youngest son, eight-year-old Jaziel, pleaded for him not to go.
“The little one was attached to my hip crying,” Rivera said. “It’s hard, it’s hard. A lot of people don’t see that part of the game. You have to leave your family. Even though you’re going to see them again, but that detachment from the family is hard.”
But Rivera, who signed a two-year contract this offseason, said his “love and passion” for the game is still why he plays.
“If you don’t feel it in your heart, if you don’t feel it in yourself anymore, then it’s time to say goodbye,” Rivera said. “Why are you going to do it if you don’t have the desire to do it?”
And that passion hasn’t waned over the years; in fact, he said it is as strong as ever.
“It’s always the same, it’s always there,” Rivera said. “When you lose that, when it’s not there…recognize that it’s time to go.”
Rivera said despite 559 saves and five World Series rings, his competitive fire is the same as well.
“I always want to win, doesn’t matter if I have 10 rings, 15 rings, I would want the 16th one or the 11th one or the sixth,” Rivera said. “But, again, everything comes down to how you feel in your heart. You still have the passion or you don’t have the passion.”