PANAMA CITY, Panama -- An official press conference was held Saturday morning to celebrate the "Legends Series", the two games that will take place at Rod Carew National Stadium in Panama City Saturday evening and Sunday in honor of Mariano Rivera.
"I appreciate a lot the teams and all of the people that have made this, my dream, possible, and I hope that this is an event that would repeat itself and that no one could forget," the legendary Panamanian closer said at the press conference room.
Rivera was accompanied at the podium by Yankees captain Derek Jeter, team president Randy Levine as well as Marlins president Michael Hill and Giancarlo Stanton, who's of Puerto Rican descent, and representatives of Major League Baseball and the players' union.
The "Legends Series" marks MLB's first visit to Panama since 1947, and Jeter didn't hesitate in taking advantage of the event's significance to joke about his former teammate's nearly 20 years with the Bombers.
"It is a privilege for me and for us as an organization to come here to Panama, which is an amazing place, and I can't think about a better person to honor than Mariano," said the Yankees' shortstop, who said that he had made two previous visits to the Central American nation.
"It is a great opportunity to come back here and once again bring baseball to Panama and I'm very happy that MLB made professional baseball games here come true since 1946 ... when Mo was a little kid," Jeter said before the crowded room broke into laughter.
Stanton also stressed the importance of being able to share the podium with the two legends, winners of five World Series rings.
"It is an honor to be here and honor Mariano; that's what we're here for, to honor him and bring the game of Major League Baseball to Panama and expand the sport," the 24-year-old outfielder said.
"I never had the opportunity to meet Mariano or Derek but they're ballplayers that I grew up watching ever since I was a kid and they made me love baseball, so for me it's an honor to be here."
Representing commissioner Bud Selig was MLB executive vice president of labor relations Dan Halem, who said the mission of promoting professional games in diverse parts of the world is not only the globalization of the sport, but also to stress the importance of baseball as a positive influence in society.
"It's MLB's mission to continue the globalization of our game and we're committed to bringing games to our millions of fans on a worldwide scale," said Halem, who's been working under Selig since 2007.
"We're very happy to be here, and like the commissioner says, baseball is an important social institution and the best things is that these games and event will benefit the people through the Mariano Rivera Foundation."
Levine pointed out that for the Yankees it was a priority to have the opportunity to honor Rivera in his native country.
"Once Mariano made the decision to retire last year, as big as his farewell tour was, we thought it was necessary that we needed to give him another honor and this has been a great event," said Levine, who added that Marlins owner Jeff Loria also helped make the event happen.
"The Yankees are an international brand and there are Yankee fans all over the world," Levine said. "Our players enjoy this type of event a lot and we always try to make it, so now we'll try to return and expand to other places."
Levine emphasized that he feels this has been the perfect moment and place to close and honor Rivera's career, and to initiate what's going to be a farewell tour for Jeter, who announced in February that the 2014 season would be his last in professional baseball.
"[It's the icing on the cake] because this is his country. When you go around there [with Rivera], you see how the Panamanian people adore him and the respect they have for him. It's very touching, for me, to honor Mo at the beginning of Derek's farewell and it's a pleasure for everyone to see Derek Jeter wherever he goes. Never again will we see two type of players like them two together, they're two of the biggest Yankees of all time."