Former New York Yankee player, Mariano Rivera, arguably one of the greatest closing pitchers in Major League Baseball history, shared his life changing testimony at a major church in Brooklyn over the weekend. The famous pitcher discussed his childhood, fame, infidelity and what really matters to him.
BreatheCast was in attendance as Rivera filled The Brooklyn Tabernacle in downtown Brooklyn, New York Sunday afternoon. Believers and fans all gathered to hear him share his life's journey up to this point. The baseball superstar confessed that although he had pitched in front of millions he was shaking in his suit as he stood on the platform of the church that seats 3,200 people.
The 44-year-old Panama native shook off the nerves as he spoke to the crowd with his thick Panamanian accent, "Many of you came to hear an ex-baseball player, but instead you're going to hear a man of God," he stated as he broke the ice.
He described growing up in the country with his mother and abusive alcoholic father, whom he still loves very much to this day. He said he grew up Catholic, but his family never went to church so he had no idea what kind of Catholic they were.
He said he wanted to become an auto mechanic and never thought he would actually become a Major League Baseball player. He recalled a time before baseball when he briefly became a fisherman. He said his cousin Vidal told him about the Lord and the accounts in the Bible while on the boat. That was when he first started going to church and gave his life to Jesus.
He then fast-forwarded from that point up to his time with the Yankees. He said initially he looked at all of his success as a blessing, but then with all the praise and fame he quickly began to think he was "the man."
He admitted that he made foolish mistakes, "I told the Lord I got this, I was the man," he said.
Although he was straying away from God, he said he still went to church and always prayed before he played.
Rivera said on one particular day, right before he threw his first pitch, he prayed, "teach me something that I will never forget." That day he said he got "hit so hard," and told God, "Thank you Lord for that lesson."
Rivera humbly admitted, "I recognized he wasn't first in my life," the audience intensely listened as he spoke words that pierced through the heart.
He went on to confess that he had been committing adultery with several women even though he was married. He said he was, "doing wrong things-separate from the Lord. " Adultery," turned into "lie[ing]."
After he recognized his wrongs he explained, "It's a beautiful thing when the Lord does that for you, because you realize you're not in control."
Rivera stated, "Now I can teach about those things." He paralleled his life with the life of King Solomon in the Bible. Like himself, Solomon loved the Lord and did his will until he thought "he was the man."
He explained that Solomon came to the same conclusion as he did, it's all "meaningless."
"Everything that I accomplished is worldly... if I don't accomplish that [heavenly] crown then it's nothing," Rivera firmly declared.
He said, "If you walk away from the Lord [what you have] it means nothing!"
"I was in the church and it got to me," he said, because he was, "believing and thinking I'm the man." He went on to say, "They're so many people in church like that, but you're saying that Jesus is number one in your life."
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 as he talked about his redemptive testimony.
"Thank God for his mercy and grace that wrapped me and covered me," he said emotionally, "The word of God [Bible] confronted me."
"You're not the man, He is the man," was his echoing statement. He encouraged everyone in attendance to "reach deep down" and see if God was number one in their lives.
He revealed, he has a great passion for youth because "the youth think they are invincible," as he once did himself.
"Not that I was better than you," he noted, "If he used me he definitely can use you."
He briefly told the heart-breaking story of a 22-year-old Anaheim pitcher that was killed in a car crash shortly after making his debut in MLB. He wanted to drive home the thought that, "Tomorrow is not promised."
He told the thousands listening, "Today is the day of salvation," he reinforced, "it's the best decision that I have made, when I give my life to the Lord."
Rivera ended by emotionally praying for the hundreds who walked up to the alter to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior. After the service he took time to shake hands, hug and encourage the people who were all very seemly blessed by his transparency and heart.
Rivera retired from the Yankees in 2013 after spending his 17 year career with the team. He won a total of five World Series Championships. He and his wife are now pastors of Refuge of Hope church.