Mariano Rivera hopes that his latest release will change the lives of 2 billion people.
The former Yankees closer believes a new professional baseball league in India, Pakistan and the Middle East will revolutionize his sport and develop a new generation of players and fans.
Rivera is the co-president of the new United International Baseball League, which he says can provide young athletes with a path similar to the one he blazed as an amateur pitcher in Panama and became Major League Baseball’s all-time saves leader. .
“Coming from Panama, not having much, but just having the opportunity to play the game that I love, is what motivated me to do the same for those in Pakistan, India, the Middle East, who don’t have much,” Rivera told the Daily. News.
“We have to create the opportunity for them to become the next superstar. Doing that is fascinating, because you don’t know what you’re going to face. … How many Mariano Riveras are you going to find there?”
UIBL was founded by investor Kanwal Mrs, a New York University graduate and Ernst & Young alumnus who saw an opportunity to introduce America’s pastime to the 2 billion residents of the Indian subcontinent and the region of Middle East with the first professional baseball league there. .
Rivera and Sra believe that baseball has an opportunity to thrive in countries where cricket is one of the most popular sports.
“It’s not the same game, but it’s similar,” Rivera said. “They have to hit the ball. They have to catch the ball. They have to run and all that. By doing it already, cricket has helped us continue to do something different.
“You have the opportunity to teach the game of baseball in different countries,” said Rivera. “Countries that have the potential to bring Major League Baseball players to Major League Baseball.”
The UIBL announced on Monday that it will hold an exhibition in Dubai next February with teams from India, Pakistan, the United States and Dubai. The league plans to expand to a full season with eight teams in 2024.
“The population of India is approximately 1.3 billion. You have 900 million people who follow the sport of cricket,” Sra told The News. “The average age of people watching in India is 34 years old. The average age of baseball fans in the United States is 57 years old. We see an incredible opportunity to be able to grow the game and develop a lot of the youngsters.”
Rivera pitched each of his 19 MLB seasons with the Yankees, recording 652 saves and winning five World Series. The team retired No. 42 from him in 2013, and in 2019 he became the only player to be unanimously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
He is eager to inspire the young players through the UIBL in the same way that the athletes from Panama motivated him.
“There were players like Roberto Kelly, who was part of the New York Yankees, and many other Panamanians who played before, who were in the same condition as me,” Rivera said. “Maybe a little worse. But at the same time, you get that opportunity, you get the opportunity and you just take it.”
Baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin has also partnered with UIBL to help bring visibility to the company. Rivera believes they have the right roster of executives to make the league successful.
“This is going to be something special,” Rivera said.