Rivera Jr. is ready to make his name with the Nationals
Mariano Rivera Jr. was sitting at home in Harrison, N.Y., on Tuesday, nervous about his future. The Yankees drafted the son of their former reliever, the greatest closer of all time, in the 29th round of last year’s draft but he decided to return to Iona College.
As the rounds ticked by on the second day of this year’s draft, Rivera sat on the couch and talked with his mother and girlfriend, trying to get himself to think about something else.
“I was getting nervous at this point,” Rivera said.
Then the 21-year-old got a congratulatory text message from his college pitching coach. Confused, Rivera looked at his computer and saw the Nationals had picked him in the fourth round with the 134th overall pick.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God,’ ” he said. “What a sense of relief and pure happiness.”
Although his pedigree helps, Rivera is a late blooming pitcher like his father and a potential prospect in his own right. He didn’t throw hard early in his college career. He had a 7.25 ERA as a freshman, 5.40 as a sophomore. But as he grew and learned how to pitch, Rivera unlocked potential in his arm. His fastball reached 95 mph in his junior season, accompanied by a power slider. He was named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year after notching five wins and six complete games and posting a 2.65 ERA.
“Overall, experience, maturity and knowledge of the game has really helped me grow and be the athlete I am today,” Rivera said.
Now Rivera and the Nationals must agree to a deal.
“Any team that picked me, any organization that gave me an opportunity to play for them is amazing, a blessing,” he said. “I wasn’t going to be upset if it was or wasn’t the Yankees.”
As soon as he signs, Rivera hopes to begin making his own name in professional baseball.
“It’s very tough carrying that name,” he said. “I always felt there was a shadow. I’ve learned to step away from that shadow and learned to become my own person and my own player. It’s been working out. There was some pressure. Now I’m just excited to start my own pro career. Maybe one day I’ll see my name up there in the majors with [Bryce] Harper and [Max] Scherzer.”
But before he starts on that path, Rivera went to a sushi dinner Tuesday night to celebrate, fittingly, with his father.