President Trump’s entrance into the East Room of the White House with Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera thrilled those in attendance and ignited social media.
But it wasn’t just the sight of the Hall of Famer walking side by side with the president as he prepared to receive the Medal of Freedom, it was the choice of music blaring over the speaker that many found “straight-up awesome.”
After being announced, Trump and Rivera walked into the East Room to the theme song for the former New York Yankees closer, “Enter Sandman” by the heavy metal band Metallica.
The five-time World Series champion went by the nickname ‘Sandman’ during his Yankees career from 1995 to 2013.
“My wife asked me ‘why the Sandman?'” Trump said, referring to First Lady Melania Trump as he addressed those gathered at the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony Monday.
“I said because he put the batter to sleep. Right? The Sandman,” Trump added before praising Rivera as “maybe the greatest pitcher of all time.”
The 49-year-old from Panama who became a U.S. citizen played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball, and was with the Yankees the whole time, recording a record 652 saves while posting an ERA above 2.50 three times.
“Game after game, when his entrance music, ‘Enter Sandman,’ filled the arena, fans went wild knowing that the game was all but over. His dominance on the mound mesmerized fans, teammates, and, unfortunately for them, it mesmerized the competitors,” Trump said during the ceremony for the nation’s highest civilian honor.
“One of the most memorable moments of Mariano’s career was the final game of the old Yankee Stadium — this was the last game in Yankee Stadium — when he took his place in history as the final man to pitch in that shrine to American baseball,” Trump said of the 13-time All-Star and the first player unanimously voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. “And I spent many a day in that stadium — and night. And it was special.”
(Video: White House/YouTube)
“Throughout Mariano’s incredible career, he remained a humble man guided by a deep Christian faith that inspires everyone around him. As he says, he has always remembered that ‘The Lord doesn’t care about wealth or fame or the number of saves somebody has. We are all children of God, and the Lord cares about the goodness and love in our hearts. That’s all,'” the president remarked. “Wow.”
Rivera, who was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 2015, has been a vocal supporter of the president and serves as co-chair of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition.
In his remarks before being given the Medal, Rivera recalled his early frustrations as a player, not due to his proficiency in the game but his lack of proficiency in the English language.
“Because I was frustrated. Times that I’d go to bed crying not because of the game, but because I was frustrated because I couldn’t speak the language. I couldn’t speak English,” he said, recalling how his teammates helped him learn the language.
“By the end of the year, I was able to communicate with my manager, with my teammates, and I was the happiest man in baseball,” he said to laughter.
“And from that, I would say that my career took off and I was able to realize that I can do something for others because I knew the language. Now I can relate with someone that’s going through the same process that I have been, but at the same time teach them that, yes, learning English is the first thing that we should do,” he added.
“I’m proud to be an American,” Rivera said to applause. “So for that, thank God.”
Monday’s Medal of Freedom was the 12th one given by Trump since he has been in office with previous sports recipients including the late Yankees icon Babe Ruth as well as pro golfer Tiger Woods.
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