On September 20th, Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico and created one of the largest humanitarian crisis the island has ever seen. For the next few days, there was confusion and desperation. The United States is home to over 5 million Puerto Ricans, and all have some sort of direct connection to the island.
The images that were broadcasted were horrifying, the fragile island was decimated and the residents lacked essentials like food, water, and electricity. The economy of the island was equally delicate and there was no way they could recover without help from the world.
There were very little communication and no way to know if friends and relatives were alive and no way to provide for them. Slowly, people started turning to me, asking how to get word to a relative or how can I get supplies over to the island? The truth is, I was in a state of shock and trying to process where I could even begin to help. Over the next few days, we learned that water and basic supplies were desperately needed. I approached Brandon Steiner, the CEO of Steiner Sports, and explained that I wanted to conduct a Supply Relief Drop Off at the Steiner Sports Corporate Offices and I needed Mariano Rivera to help me.
I worked for Steiner Sports for many years. The company provided me with a platform to create unique collectibles for the memorabilia industry and work with some amazing athletes and entertainers. It’s also a place where I learned how to use my role as a vehicle to help others. I conducted fundraisers and celebrity auctions to help benefit victims of the 2004 Tsunami and 2005 Hurricane Katrina. I needed to do the same for Puerto Rico.
Mariano Rivera was the epitome of class, professionalism, and benevolence. He was never persnickety about his Saves record or ERA., he was more concerned with winning and using his celebrity to make a difference in our world. Whenever you are around him he emanates faith and wisdom, and you walk away with a feeling of positivity. Some players build mansions, jet-set across the globe, and flaunt their wealth and success. Mariano built a Church and has worked tirelessly to help cultivate the lives of our children and continues to leave the world a little better than he entered into it.
On the morning of September 27th, I connected with a representative from the United States Army. I wanted to make sure that the supplies that were being collected would make it to the island and its residents. He confirmed that they had transports filled with supplies heading to the island the following week and if I could fill the trucks he would get the supplies to those impacted by this horrible event.
Once I confirmed the logistics my next call was to Mariano Rivera. I called him and greeted him as I’ve always done since 2001, “Bendecion, Mariano”, which translates into Blessings, Mariano. I explained my idea and how I needed his help to make this event successful. His response was short and typical Mariano Rivera: “What do I have to do and what time do I have to be there?” It was the first time since the Hurricane impacted Puerto Rico that I felt everything will be ok and our people will recover.
Once I secured Mariano Rivera’s attendance we had less than 24 hours to get the word out. I couldn’t wait a week to coordinate this event, Puerto Rico needed the supplies as quickly as possible. The Steiner Sports social media and web team were amazing, they communicated the information to our massive audience and worked closely with me to answer emails and questions related to the event.
On September 28th, I headed downstairs not knowing what to expect, hoping that we could collect some cases of water and supplies. I met with Mariano and his wife, Clara, and he asked me “What do you want me to do”? I wanted him there to help persuade people to help with the reward of meeting Mariano Rivera. I explained that he didn’t have to do much other than greet the donors. The first cars started to appear and people started to unload their water, pampers, batteries, canned food, and other supplies, Mariano quickly started unloading the supplies and stacking everything on the loading dock. He looked at me and said, “I came here to help, let’s go”.
Over the next few hours something amazing happened, people from all walks of life drove up, each carrying some sort of donation. People were excited to meet Mariano Rivera but there were more eager to help; they were eager to help people they never met before. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly to collect the items and load them onto pallets and prepare them for pick up the next day. We worked into the night and Mariano never complained, he lifted and loaded and did something that nobody else could do- he assured everybody that God will get the residents of Puerto Rico through this.
The following day I entered the warehouse and two military trucks were there to collect the supplies. We helped load the trucks and realized that two trucks would not accommodate all of the supplies. Another truck arrived and collected the supplies that were left over. In less than 24 hours we organized an event and collected enough supplies to fill 3 military trucks. I’m convinced that we were able to accomplish that not by Mariano’s appearance, but by his faith in God.
Mariano Rivera’s name will be synonymous with excellence and dominance, his All Time record of 652 saves will most likely go unchallenged. He was the first baseball player to ever be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame unanimously. His name will always be mentioned as one of the greats, but what makes him amazing is his heart and dedication to God and people all over the world.
On September 28th, 2017, Mariano Rivera made one of the greatest saves of his life…He helped Save The Victims of Hurricane Maria and that places him in the Hall of Fame of life in my book.