Rivera Jr. is ready to make his name with the Na­tion­als

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY JAMES WAG­NER james.wag­ner@wash­post.com Ex­cerpted from wash­ing­ton­post.com/ na­tion­al­sjour­nal

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.

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