During visits to opposing ballparks around the country, New York Yankees legendary closer Mariano Rivera, who will retire at season’s end, is seeking out “unsung heroes” who toil endlessly behind the scenes and whose efforts are rarely noticed but integral to the operation of MLB franchises.
The latest stop on the “Mariano Rivera Farewell Tour” was a three-game, midweek series against the Oakland A’s on the West Coast. While there, Rivera paid a visit to Julie Vasconcellos, a longtime A’s employee who has worked in the team’s mailroom for 25 years. What was he doing when he surprised her? Delivering a pizza, of course. Duh.
Rivera carried in a pizza box Wednesday night and brought Vasconcellos to tears as he thanked her for 2 1/2 decades of hard work behind the scenes.
“This is my way to say thank you, thank you for what you do,” Rivera told Vasconcellos, who declined to give her age other than “old.” “Twenty-five years, Julie, that’s great! You’re special, Julie, that’s what it is. People here love you.”
Rivera signed a ball for Vasconcellos, gave her several hugs and posed for photos – then he stuck around to chat for another 10 minutes or so.
“Oh, my heart’s going to town, oh my God,” said Vasconcellos, who had to sit down at one point. “I’m shaking. … Oh, this is too funny, thank you.”
Rivera asked if she was OK, to which she responded, “I’m just shocked. I’m never going to forget your face again.”
Man, it would have been cool if someone would have cranked up “Enter Sandman” as Rivera entered the mail room. May have spoiled the mood, though.
Rivera, about the classiest individual who has put on a major league uniform, seemed just as thrilled about meeting Vasconcellos as she was meeting the Yankee legend.
“Oh, I love it, yes. I’m enjoying every minute,” Rivera said. “They all have their own personality. I decided before spring training that I wanted to do something different and make sure I said thanks to the fans – not just the regular fans, but also those behind the scenes, like Julie, who has been here (more than) 20 years. That’s wonderful.”
Kusos to Mariano Rivera for being such a class act and a grand ambassador of the game. Major League Baseball won’t be the same without him.
— Oakland Athletics (@Athletics) June 12, 2013