After signing with the Yankees in 1990, Mariano Rivera took the first plane ride of his life, flying from his native Panama to Miami. He didn't even know what an airport gate was. Now, the legendary closer has one dedicated to him at one of the largest terminals in the United States.
In honor of the first player ever to be unanimously elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Delta Airlines has renamed Gate 42 at JFK Airport the "Mariano Rivera Gate." Rivera, who wore No. 42 throughout his career, also had a 757 aircraft dedicated to him.
"I don't think there are words to put something like that in perspective," Rivera told reporters at his new gate on Tuesday. "It is important to me. That tells you how much respect you got from others, especially when you have a company like Delta Airlines to give you that kind of respect and honor you at events like this. … It makes me happy. I never did things to receive things like that. This is adding to the cake. I'm humbled to receive this. Not too many people have the opportunity to have a gate in one of the biggest airports in the United States, JFK."
Rivera recently detailed his initial arrival to the U.S. on MLB.com's "Full Account" podcast. At the time, Rivera didn't understand a word of English, and he was overwhelmed by the sheer size of Miami International Airport.
"Out of all airports -- Miami," Rivera said. "Humongous airport. … That was my first time ever [on an airplane]. And here I am looking for a gate, [thinking] 'What the heck is [a] gate?'"
Sitting down with MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, Rivera covered a wide range of topics on the podcast, including his early experiences in the Minors, the development of his famous cutter -- which Rivera calls his "gift from God" -- the use of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" as an entrance theme, and his rise to baseball immortality.