CLEVELAND -- For each of his 19 seasons in the big leagues, Mariano Rivera has heard the rhythmic banging of John Adams' bass drum in the outfield seats, comprising the trusty soundtrack to accompany every game his Yankees have played within the Cleveland city limits.
On Wednesday, Rivera finally had the chance to shake Adams' hand and thank him for his passion. As part of his ongoing "Mo-ment of Thanks" tour, Rivera greeted a group of longtime Indians staffers at Progressive Field and even had his chance to give Adams' drum a light tap.
"It's a blessing. Wonderful," Rivera said. "I always said, 'Man, this guy is so loyal to the team.' Whatever happens, good or bad, he's there banging that drum. You appreciate that, the loyalty and faithfulness. That's what it is all about. It's not about what team he roots for, it's about baseball. He roots for his team, but it's baseball that is all around."
Adams, who has been banging his drum at Indians games since 1973, said that he appreciated the opportunity to meet with Rivera.
"It's a stress relief for me -- and you've given me a lot of stress!" Adams told the Yankees closer.
Yankees director of media relations Jason Zillo said that Rivera first floated the idea of doing something different with his farewell season a few years ago. Rivera toyed with the idea of retiring last year, but never made it official; with the announcement that he'll retire at the conclusion of the 2013 season, Rivera now wants to take the time to give something back in each city the Yankees visit this season.
"This is what it is. You want to be able to say thanks to these people," Rivera said. "No one sees these people. You take the time to say thanks. When I retired, I wanted to do something different, something that people don't see. It doesn't always have to be the same [ceremony] on the field. There's a lot of other people that run the teams. They are here, but we don't see them."
Rivera posed for photographs in the Indians' press conference room and signed autographs for each of the guests in attendance, but his favorite part was interacting with the people; Rivera shook hands and listened intently to each personal story of service to the game and also fielded questions in a wide-ranging Q&A.
One person asked Rivera what his least favorite memory of pitching against the Indians was, and while the expected answer would be Sandy Alomar Jr.'s home run in the 1997 American League Division Series, Rivera offered a slightly different take on that crushing defeat than his Yankees teammates had at the time.
"Let me tell you something about it," Rivera said. "If you think that '97 was bad, I'd tell you for me, it was the stone where I stepped to push forward. It helped me to become better. If that wouldn't have happened, God only knows where I would have wound up.
"Because that happened, it pushed me to be better in moments like that and situations like that. I have to appreciate that event and that moment, and all the years, it's been a battle here. I never will say that it was easy."