SEATTLE, Washington — The baseball world regards Mariano Rivera as an All-Star pitcher. In fact, he is the only player to be unanimously accepted into the MLB Hall of Fame. However, Rivera’s lesser-known achievements stem from his humanitarian work providing education to underprivileged children in both the United States and his country of birth, Panama. Rivera’s philanthropic work has earned him the ROBIE Humanitarian Award in 2014 as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019.
The Mariano Rivera Foundation
In 1998, he founded
the Mariano Rivera Foundation to build schools, provide scholarships and generate relief funds
for suffering people across the Western Hemisphere. The Foundation raises $500,000 per year for the effort in relief funds. Every Christmas, Rivera visits his home country to offer gifts to impoverished Panamanian children.
In 2014 Rivera even coordinated with the MLB to hold an exhibition match between the New York Yankees and the Miami Marlins in Panama. It was the first MLB game to be held
in the country since 1947. The game drew national attention to the developing nation, generating tourism to boost Panama’s economy as well as renewed interest in the country’s issues.
Poverty in Panama
Rivera understands the struggles of poverty in a developing country far too well. Growing up in the small fishing village Puerto Caimito, Panama, Rivera had to drop out of school in the ninth grade and work six days a week on his father’s fishing boat. His poverty did not stop him from playing baseball though. Rivera and his friends used a baseball wrapped in duct-tape and gloves fashioned out of cardboard.
American baseball scouts recruited Rivera In 1990. He moved to the United States to begin his career in the minor league. Rivera didn’t speak any English and was taught the language by his multilingual teammates. He later stated in 2019 that learning English “made him the happiest man in baseball.”
Mariano Rivera escaped Panamanian poverty, achieved greatness on American soil and has dedicated his retirement to improving the lives of impoverished children regardless of nationality. Rivera has been a treasure to communities across America, profusely giving back to the country that lent a hand and offered him an opportunity.
From Panama to the United States
Rivera has focused his philanthropic work in the United States as well, combatting poverty from sea to shining sea. In 2007, Rivera and his foundation donated sporting equipment to Panamanian immigrants
living in New York City. He inspired a love of sport in young impoverished immigrants just like himself. However, his charity work isn’t limited to those with roots in Panama or those who love athletics.
His foundation regularly organizes backpack giveaways
in several states, donating the proceeds to impoverished American children. Rivera is also known for having donating musical instruments
and uniforms to struggling high school students in California. The Mariano Rivera Foundation is currently building a learning center in New Rochelle, New York. Minors make up 53 percent of impoverished residents
in New Rochelle. Rivera’s foundation aims to ensure these children have a safe place to continue their education outside of school.
Rivera’s humanitarian work has reached across borders and assisted countless numbers of people. Still, Rivera maintains humility in what he has accomplished, taking to heart the words of former Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. “If you do something good for someone, and more than two people know about it, you didn’t do it for the right reason.” The efforts of his foundation and similar organizations teach us that a little bit can go a long way.
– Esau Carpenter