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(LEAD) Ex-Yankee great Rivera says door open to aspiring big leaguers

All Headlines 16:50 November 12, 2014

(ATTN: ADDS details, photo)
By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Nov. 12 (Yonhap) -- Mariano Rivera, the former New York Yankees closer and the all-time saves leader in Major League Baseball (MLB) history, on Wednesday offered this message to aspiring big leaguers from South Korea: the door to the ultimate baseball competition is open.

"The opportunities are there, and you just have to go for it," Rivera said at a press conference in Seoul, during his five-day visit. "You have to have the desire to play the game at the best level, and that is Major League Baseball. Hopefully, we will see more Korean players."

Rivera, 44, retired from the big leagues in 2013 with 652 saves, after spending his 19-year career with the Yankees. The 11-time All-Star won five World Series titles with the Bronx Bombers, and racked up at least 30 saves in 15 of 17 seasons as a full-time closer.

(LEAD) Ex-Yankee great Rivera says door open to aspiring big leaguers - 2

Rivera also established himself as the most-feared closer in the postseason. With the Yanks picking up World Series rings, the right-hander collected a record 42 saves in the playoffs with a 0.70 ERA in 141 innings.

Rivera said he played against South Korean outfielder Choo Shin-soo when Choo played for the Cleveland Indians from 2006 to 2012, and called him "a great player." Rivera was also teammates with South Korean pitcher Park Chan-ho in 2010, the South Korean's lone season in Yankee pinstripes.

Rivera's bread-and-butter pitch during his career was his devastating cutter, which broke in on the hands of the right-handed batters and shattered a great number of bats on weak grounders.

The former pitcher said he never tried to develop the pitch and that no one taught him how to throw it.

"The cutter was a pitch that the Lord gave to me," Rivera said. "One day, I was throwing it and all of a sudden, the ball was moving. I retired last year and the ball never stopped moving. I used it for 17 years as a closer and it was amazing."

For all his postseason glories, Rivera has also had his share of failures. Most notably, Rivera gave up the walk-off hit against Luis Gonzalez of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.

Asked how he's been able to overcome his low moments, Rivera said he simply learned to accept what baseball gave him.

"You have to understand that sometimes, you're going to fail," Rivera added. "When you understand that, you'll be okay. If I always gave my 100 percent, the rest would be fine. Losing is part of the game. You have to forget about it and move on. There's nothing you can do about it and I was always conscious of that."

In his post-playing life, Rivera said he's enjoyed giving back to the community and helping those in need, along with his wife, Clara.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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