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Estadio Mariano Rivera Opens in Legendary Closer’s Home Country of Panama

 Conor Liguori - World Baseball Network  |    Jun 27th, 2024 9:22am EDT

More than ten years after legendary closer Mariano Rivera retired from Major League Baseball, a stadium in his home country of Panama was built in his honor and opened this past Friday in La Chorrera, the capital of Panama Oeste province.   

Estadio Mariano Rivera is a new 10,000-seat stadium that took just 14 months to build and has MLB-quality seats, scoreboards, bathrooms, etc. According to Cospanama.com, the project cost about $42 million. The stadium has state-of-the-art facilities, including weight rooms and batting cages, to give players the best possible training experience.   

ECO TV Panama reports that the stadium has a museum, a souvenir shop, a restaurant, and 20 private boxes where fans can enjoy a game.  

Rivera, who grew up in Puerto Caimito, a poor fishing village in Panama, attended the stadium’s inauguration this past Friday. His goal for the newly opened field is to allow young baseball players in Panama to train and work their way to becoming the best possible baseball player they can be. Panama President Laurentino Cortizo and Vice President of the Republic Jose Gabriel Carrizo also attended the inauguration.  

The stadium’s facade has “Estadio Mariano Rivera” in bold white letters, a left-field scoreboard, and state-of-the-art clubhouses and training rooms for the players. Typically, this is not the quality field young baseball players are fortunate to play on in La Chorrera.  

Yasilka Cordoba, a sports journalist for El Siglo de Panama, believes Estadio Mariano Rivera will be excellent for the La Chorrera community.  

“It means a lot because Mariano Rivera is from the area, and it will impact more children wanting to play baseball and be like Mariano Rivera,” Cordoba told World Baseball Network. “La Chorrera had several years without a stadium, and now it has two with a population that grows more every day.”  

The other well-known stadium in La Chorrera is Estadio de Béisbol Justino Salinas, about a 10-minute drive from Estadio Mariano Rivera.   

If there were ever a player deserving of a stadium named after them, it would be Mariano Rivera. The “Sandman” was a five-time World Series champion with the New York Yankees, MLB’s all-time leader in saves with 652, a 13-time MLB All-Star, and is the only player in the history of the National Baseball Hall of Fame to be elected unanimously by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in 2019.  

“It is a privilege to be here. I thank god for this beautiful day to all those who accompanied me, my parents, those who came with me from New York, from MLB. It is a privilege that a house like this bears my name,” Rivera said in his speech at the inauguration on Friday, translated from Spanish. “I always had the support of my parents. They supported me, pushed and gave me everything they had. God took me by the hand, took me out of Puerto Caimito and gave me directions as a child, trained me, and took me places where I didn’t know the language,” said Rivera, who retired from the MLB after the 2013 season.  

In his speech on Friday, Rivera stressed that the stadium’s opening is to benefit the youth and their future in baseball and education.  

 Rivera continues to show outstanding leadership in his home country of Panama. During the stadium’s inauguration, a new learning program with Florida State University and the Patronato del Centro de Alto Rendimiento (National Baseball High-Performance Center) will teach Panamanian players and coaches how to speak English.  

“It is special that it bears my name; major leaguers or university students will come out of here, and our young people speak English. We are empowering them for a better future,” Rivera said in his speech at the inauguration.  

When Rivera signed his contract with the Yankees in February 1990, the then-21-year-old did not speak English. During his Hall of Fame speech in Cooperstown, New York, he told the crowd there were nights he would cry himself to sleep due to frustration in communicating with his teammates.  

With his help and Florida State University’s, they can help young players and coaches in Panama avoid the frustrating situation he encountered when he first arrived in the United States. 

Liga Profesional de Beisbol de Panama, or Probeis, is a three-team professional baseball winter league in Panama. This year, the Federales de Chiriqui was an invitee to the 2024 Caribbean Series in Miami, Florida. Yasilka Cordoba says future Probeis games may occur at Estadio Mariano Rivera.   

“It is expected that games can be played there, in what is now the best stadium in the country,” Cordoba told World Baseball Network 

Rivera never appeared in Probeis but played for an amateur team called the Panama Oeste Vaqueros when he was 18 and signed with the Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1990.   

The opening of Estadio Mariano Rivera was not just the inauguration of a new stadium. It inaugurated new opportunities and future experiences for Panamanians who love baseball. There will likely never be a player from Panama who achieves more success in professional baseball than Mariano Rivera. Still, perhaps one day, a player of his talent will stroll through the stadium that showcases Rivera’s name.  

Photo Credit: Mariano Rivera is introduced during New York Yankees Old Timer’s Day. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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Conor Liguori - World Baseball Network