Former San Diego closer helps team pay tribute to all-time saves leader
SAN DIEGO -- There was no way Padres manager Bud Black was going to miss the pregame ceremony at Petco Park on Friday night as the organization paid tribute to Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who is retiring at the end of the season.
"I've got a good seat," Black joked before the game, noting he planned on being in front of the Padres' dugout for the ceremony.
It turns out he wasn't the only one who wasn't going to miss the first -- and last -- visit to Petco Park by Rivera, baseball's all-time saves leader (642).
Aside from a sold-out crowd at Petco Park for the first of three games between these teams, former San Diego closer Trevor Hoffman was on hand as well.
Hoffman, of course, held baseball's record for career saves (601) before Rivera passed him.
"It wasn't even something we needed to discuss," Hoffman said. "It was more like, 'When are we going to do it.'"
The Padres presented Rivera with a custom beach cruiser -- with four others for his family as well -- in a brief ceremony. Hoffman and Rivera met at home plate and hugged before the bike was wheeled out.
The two hugged again before Rivera headed to his dugout and Hoffman -- who had 552 of his 601 saves in 18 seasons with the Padres -- headed to the home clubhouse.
"It's a unique fraternity. You never want to see a closer blow a save," Hoffman said. "You follow other guys in the game. Mariano has been a guy that's been easy to like. He's been respectful, done things quietly and been humble with his success.
"It's easy to root for a guy like that."
By now, Yankees manager Joe Girardi is used to that certain coolness and calmness that surrounds his closer. He assumes Hoffman was the very same way.
"In watching Trevor, [it was] consistency, No. 1, and having a great out pitch," Girardi said. "His was his changeup, Mo's is his cutter. But not knowing Trevor at all, my guess is he's probably pretty good at turning the page.
"If you blow a save, move on, make sure it doesn't carry over to the next day. And I think to be a great closer, you have to have that ability."
While this is Rivera's first trip to Petco Park, he has a history with the Padres.
Rivera had saves in three World Series games 1998, including Game Nos. 3 and 4 at Qualcomm Stadium, in the Yanks' sweep.
Former Padres pitcher Andy Ashby, part of the broadcast team Friday for Fox Sports San Diego, made a start in Game 2 of the World Series. He remembers Rivera's dominance during the Series and he has marveled at his career from afar.
"For me, the most impressive thing is how consistent he's been year after year. To be that consistent, and how he's handled everything, is amazing," Ashby said. "And him and Trevor, you're talking about the two best closers in baseball, ever."
Rivera has only faced the Padres four times during the regular season -- once in 2004 and then in three consecutive games during a series in 2008 at the old Yankee Stadium. He earned saves in three of those four games.
While San Diego third baseman Chase Headley made his Major League debut in 2007, he was promoted for good in '08, right before that series in New York. He struck out in his only plate appearance facing Rivera.
"It's not very often you see someone come through here with the most of anything," Headley said. "It's a pretty rare opportunity. I had the opportunity to play with Trevor and now to see the guy that's the best ever ... it's great."