Mariano Jr. commits to Quinnipiac

Matt Eisenberg

The Rivera name has a history with pinstripes. Now Quinnipiac will have a history with the Rivera name.

Mariano Rivera Jr., the son of New York Yankees famed closer Mariano Rivera, said in a phone interview Friday he will attend Quinnipiac University in the fall and will try out for the baseball team, attempting to walk on as a pitcher.

“My parents were supporting me 100 percent; they want me to go here,” Rivera said. “I have to prove to them that I’m ready for college and I’m on my own basically.”

When his Iona Preparatory School adviser told him about Quinnipiac, he visited with his mother and “fell in love with the campus.” He and his father toured the campus Dec. 8 – with a large crowd of people following them – and spoke with several Quinnipiac representatives, including President John Lahey and baseball coach Dan Gooley.

“My mind was already set then,” Rivera said. “I had to show (my father). He liked some of the stuff and he fell in love with it, from security to the people to the faculty. He liked it; he liked it a lot.”

There was mutual interest between Rivera and Gooley when they met in December.

“He contacted us and said he was interested, so then, of course, we did some follow-up information on him and tried to get some more background information on him,” Gooley said that day. “He decided he wanted to come up for a search. Every young guy who visits, we try and meet with them and talk to them.”

[quote]

Rivera said Gooley was very interested in seeing him play.

“From the scouting report that he has he was very interested and very impressed, but he would like to see me play,” Rivera said.

Gooley could not comment due to NCAA recruiting rules and regulations.

Though he is the son of a five-time World Series champion, he wants to make it clear that he wants to create his own identity.

“I see that my father and I are two different people,” Rivera said. “He is a pro and I’m his son, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to be just as good as him. I’m working on being the best that I can be, so we’ll see how far that takes me.”

But he said his father isn’t putting too much pressure on him.

“My dad just wants me to do the best I can and be the best I can be,” Rivera said. “He knows I can be good, but he just wants to push me to do better. If I don’t make it then he won’t be disappointed, that’s what he’s saying. I have high expectations for myself. I know that by working hard and doing the best I can, I’ll be good.

Though Rivera may not throw the exact same renowned cutter as his father – he has a fastball, slider, curveball and changeup in his arsenal – he says he has the same work ethic.

“I’m going to go there and put my best foot forward and play 100 percent no matter what,” Rivera said. “If I do bad one day I’m not going to let that put me down. I’ll work on that shortly after and just do the best I can to improve myself for the next game.

“I hope I can prove myself to them and improve myself on every aspect of every one of my pitches. I hope that I can impress the coaches and that they can see that I’m working hard, and hopefully it’ll pay off.”

Rivera will be playing for Diamond Buddies, an 18U team in New York, and Hank’s Yanks, a club baseball team owned by Yankees co-owner Hank Steinbrenner, this summer.

“I’m already working out every day and I’m training with my dad,” he said. “I’m going to work on my mechanics and get my speed up a little bit.”

Rivera has handled the spotlight once before playing amateur ball, pitching into the sixth inning with Team Mariano (Mariano Rivera’s Dominican Foundation team) against Hank’s Yanks last September at Yankee Stadium in the Boss’ Cup.

“I liked what I saw of him,” said Ray Negron, manager of Hank’s Yanks in a phone interview Monday. “He battled and he was shutting down a top-notch offensive team, and I was blown away.”

Though Hank’s Yanks won the game 3-2, Rivera allowed no earned runs and went toe-to-toe with Leonel Vinas, the opposing pitcher whom the Yankees signed to a minor league contract in December.

“He put it to us more than any pitcher had last year,” Negron said. “If he can do that to us, he’s going to do that to any Division I school, period.”

“He’s a class act. He’s a skilled pitcher, an intelligent pitcher. He pitches like he’s playing chess. When he’s on, no one is going to get to him.”

Negron also had high praise for Rivera’s slider and fastball – which he actually describes as more of a cutter because of its late movement.

“He has a real good slider and a very nice cutter,” Negron said. “He doesn’t have the velocity his father had at the same age yet, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not going to come.”

One of the biggest aspects at Quinnipiac for Rivera was the faculty’s individual attention with students.

“I liked the support that all the teachers had and all the help that Quinnipiac offers,” Rivera said. “They’ll always be there to help you out and make sure that you’re comfortable and make sure that you’re doing your best.”

Rivera plans to get involved in the legal studies program and major in English in order to possibly go to law school. He attended accepted students day in late March and talked with people from the Latino Cultural Society, among others.

He ultimately picked QU over Fairfield, High Point and South Florida. Aside from baseball, Rivera played right midfield for Iona Prep’s state champion soccer team in 2009.

He knows people are going to have high expectations of him, but in the end he wants to make a positive impression on the Quinnipiac community.

“People always have high expectations for me and when I don’t follow through I let them down,” Rivera said. “I know that I do my best so I’m improving on that end. Hopefully I can meet the expectations that people might have toward me.”