DETROIT -- Mariano Rivera was honored on Sunday in the first of what will be many ceremonies around the Major Leagues recognizing his farewell season, as the Tigers paid tribute to the closer's 19-year career.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland shook hands with Rivera behind home plate and unveiled the team's gift to the retiring 43-year-old, a photo display of Rivera pitching at both Tiger Stadium and Comerica Park.
The display also included glass bottles containing dirt from the pitcher's mound at both ballparks. Rivera doffed his cap to the cheering crowd and raised both hands in appreciation, offering Leyland a hug. He called the gift "wonderful" and was told that there will surely be more to come.
"That will take a good place in my house," Rivera said. "I'll have to build an extension, I think, because definitely I don't have room for all that. Besides that, it's great. It's great to be recognized like that."
Leyland said that he was "thrilled" that Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski asked him to represent the organization on the field.
"That's quite an honor for me, to be honest with you," Leyland said. "I've gone on record, I think he's the best of all time. I'm not looking for arguments with people to compare guys. I know in my time he's been the best that I've seen. It was just an honor really to be part of it."
Rivera acknowledged that he is somewhat uncomfortable at the center of ceremonies like Sunday's, but he does appreciate the gesture.
"It's going to be fine. I'm going to enjoy," Rivera said. "It's going to be the last [season], so I'm going to respect everybody that's going to do something or try to do something. I didn't ask for anything, but I feel, if they do something, I'm going to enjoy."
As part of his farewell tour, Rivera said that he plans to greet and thank longtime fans in every city the Yankees visit this season. The first of those visits came on Saturday in a room adjacent to the visiting clubhouse at Comerica Park.
Rivera spent time with a group of three Tigers fans: Eddie Goward, a former groundskeeper at Tiger Stadium, Steven Rollins of Gaylord, Mich., a member of the U.S. Navy who has served three combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq; and John O'Neil, Sr., who was born in Detroit and has been a Tigers season ticket holder since 1991.
"Along the way, we want to do a little bit more with the people that work, the people that no one sees," Rivera said. "Those are the people that I want to reach. The fans will be there, but these are people that you never see, but they keep the place clean and do their job. Those are the ones that I want to say, 'Thank you.'"