HUNTINGTON, New York, May 15
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
One hour, three hours, nine hours; at a Huntington bookstore on Tuesday, time was just a number.
“The wait is nothing,” said Paula Censori, of Kings Park, who waited in line outside Book Revue from 11:30 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. to meet former New York Yankee, Mariano Rivera. “I go down to spring training every year so I’ve waved to [Rivera] before, but I’m thrilled to actually get to take a picture with him and say hello.”
Censori was one of 1,000 fans who formed a line snaking through the two-floor bookstore — and eventually spilling out onto Main Street — as they patiently waited for Rivera to arrive and greet them.
“I came here to see Mo; it’s going to be amazing,” Anthony Dovi, of Northport, who arrived around 3 p.m., said while standing in line. “I’ve only been here for a little while, but I wanted to get in line so that I can get a good spot.”
While Rivera was originally scheduled to arrive at 7 p.m., many fans were surprised when the future Hall of Famer strolled in 15 minutes early and soon began taking pictures one-by-one, with those 1,000 fans who purchased a pre-signed copy of his debut book, “The Closer.”
The book, which was released on Tuesday, details Rivera’s life from his childhood in Panama to his final days as a New York Yankee in 2013. Rivera is the current Major League Baseball all-time leader in saves, with 652, and helped lead the New York Yankees to five world championships over his 19-year career.
Fans hadn’t gotten the chance to read Rivera’s book yet, but meeting him was a highlight in and of itself.
“To be honest with you, my heart was racing,” said Richard Bory, of North Babylon, seconds after he met Rivera. “He’s the greatest closer of all time. I grew up my whole life watching him so it was really a surreal moment to actually meet him in person, shake his hand, and have that moment of intimacy with him.”
Other fans were left watching from the sidelines as the book sold out before Rivera arrived, but they were able to catch a glimpse of “the Sandman” by looking up to the second floor where Rivera stood taking pictures with fans. Hundreds of fans shuffled in and out of the first floor, smartphones in hand, trying to snap a picture of Rivera and grab his attention. Rivera acknowledged the crowd — which occasionally broke out into chants of “Mariano! Mariano!” — with several waves and smiles.
“I made it out here to see one of the best, the living legend himself, Mariano,” said Peter Sarian, of Plainview, who was unable to buy a copy of the book before it sold out. “Growing up, he was one of my heroes, so it was absolutely still worth it to come here since just breathing the same air as him is pretty cool.”
But soon the closer was gone, and the crowd dissipated. While Rivera’s time was up, some fans were just grateful to be a part of the experience.
“I cam here to see Mariano Rivera but they blocked it off so I’m just exited to be here and to be around the crowd,” said Bernadette Flaherty, a self-identifying die-hard Yankee fan who was unable to meet Rivera. “It was totally worth it just to be around the fans.”
Originally published: Long Islander News: The Long Islander (Thursday, May 08, 2014; Front Page)