Mo's farewell stop in Anaheim has special meaning

Mo's farewell stop in Anaheim has special meaning

Mo's farewell stop in Anaheim has special meaning

ANAHEIM -- Mariano Rivera's farewell tour continued on Saturday, as the Yankees closer was recognized during a pregame ceremony at Angel Stadium and hosted a meet and greet with a few longtime Angels employees, stadium staffers and fans.

While Rivera plans to do something for the people behind the scenes during his last stop at every ballpark, his final appearance at Angel Stadium holds special meaning.

Not only did Rivera register his first career save against the Angels on May 17, 1996, but he also made his Major League debut at Angel Stadium against the then California Angels on May 23, 1995.

Although his first career start lasted just 3 1/3 innings, the right-hander has fond memories of the experience.

"I remember that. It was great," Rivera said. "I lost the game, but it was a good experience, my first time in the big leagues. It was outstanding. It was the beginning of a long career."

Just as it did 18 years ago, Angel Stadium gave Rivera a memory he will never forget as he conversed with and listened to the stories of the Angels employees. Rivera concluded the session by taking a photo with everyone in attendance and providing everyone with an autographed baseball.

"What we shared was pretty great," Rivera said. "That's what I wanted to do, make sure I said thank you for everything that those people have done in baseball. I know they are behind the scenes, but they have done something for baseball."

Those that had the chance to meet and interact with Rivera will remember it for a long time, but they are not the only ones cherishing the experience.

"I thought I was saying thank you, but what I'm getting back is so much more than I thought," Rivera said.

While Rivera was referring to the memories and experiences, he received some tangible gifts as well.

In a pregame ceremony that featured a video tribute -- set to Enter Sandman -- to Rivera's career, the Angels presented Rivera with a six-foot painting of the closer.

Rivera also received a gift during the meet and greet as 7-year-old Noah Neufeld signed a baseball and gave it to Rivera -- who said it would be kept in a special place.

Yankees opponents will continue to pay tribute to Rivera throughout his final season, but Rivera wants to make sure he is not the only one getting attention.

"It's never too late to say thank you," Rivera said.

William Boor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.