President Donald Trump honored Major League Baseball’s Mariano Rivera with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Monday.
“I’m proud to be an American,” Rivera said as the president bestowed the award.
The president praised the Yankees relief pitcher as “maybe the greatest pitcher of all time” as he introduced Rivera who was serenaded with his theme song, Metallica’s Enter Sandman.
During his comments, Rivera told of how frustrated he was during his early days in baseball when he spoke very little English. Joking that he doesn’t speak it so well even now, Rivera said he became “the happiest man in baseball” when he finally learned enough English to communicate effectively with his teammates and managers.
“So, yes, learning English is the first thing that we should do,” Rivera said to immigrants to this country.
“Being American,” Rivera concluded, “I’m so proud and honored that coming from a small, beautiful country called Panama, and live with my family here, and understand the language, and everything that we go through, I’m proud to be an American.”
Rivera holds the all-time MLB record for saves during his 19-year career. And this year, he also became the first player to receive a unanimous vote to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.