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A's honor Rivera with proper Oakland sendoff

A's honor Rivera with proper Oakland sendoff

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OAKLAND -- The California stops on Mariano Rivera's 2013 farewell tour hold particular significance for the Yankees closer.

Rivera's first career save came in Anaheim against the Angels on May 17, 1996. The future Hall of Famer expanded on that outing to become the game's all-time saves leader, with 631 over a 19-year career that will end after this season.

To put Rivera's longevity into further context, A's manager Bob Melvin caught Rivera in the mid-'90s as a member of New York's Triple-A Columbus Clippers affiliate -- before Rivera had developed his career-defining cut fastball.

"He didn't have it then," Melvin said. "When I caught him in Columbus, it was a four-seam fastball. It turned into a little bit of a cutter, which was probably a good move for him."

It's rare that an athlete is designated the best in the history of the sport at what he does while still playing, but that's what Rivera has accomplished.

Continuing the trend of Major League ballparks presenting the 12-time All-Star with iconic items from their respective areas, Melvin met Rivera at home plate to present him with a custom-designed surf board, a bottle of cabernet and a $10,042 donation to the Mariano Rivera Foundation before Thursday's series finale.

"I think when the other teams do it, they realize that they're honoring him because of what he's meant to the game, not just the New York Yankees," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Added Melvin: "Hopefully he doesn't pitch here today, but he's had an unbelievable career. And not only that, he's as good a person as he is a player. He's meant so much to that organization, continues to mean a lot to that organization, and I wish him the best in his career afterward. I'd love to be able to say we see him again at some point in time. It's rare that you get a guy like that who's going out on top, and that is the case with him."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Jeff Kirshman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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