Mariano meets with Mets fans, employees

Almost 13 years have passed since Mike Piazza's drive to center field landed squarely in Bernie Williams' glove to end the 2000 World Series, but New York Mets fans had to get the truth out of Mariano Rivera.

Did the New York Yankees' closer fear that Piazza had just tied up Game 5 with a two-run homer?

"No," Rivera told a group of 18 Mets fans and team employees prior to the start of the Subway Series on Monday. "He didn't hit it with the sweet spot."

Rivera, baseball's all-time saves leader, will retire after this season. As part of his farewell tour, he expressed his gratitude and talked baseball with Mets fans before his last road series against the team. He also signed autographs and posed for photos. The Mets will honor Rivera before Tuesday's game.

"It's wonderful. They're all different. They all have their own personalities," Rivera said of the talks with the fans. "It's wonderful to say thank you and be able to hear what they think of you or what they think about the game, the questions they asked about. They talk about steroids. They all know about the game. It was good."

Sitting in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda at Citi Field, and directly in front of the standing "42," Rivera touched on a variety of topics. He talked about his off-the-field endeavors, including building a church in New Rochelle, N.Y., and showed the grip for his famous cutter. He described it as more of a four-seam fastball grip, and said he applies the most pressure from his middle finger.

Rivera said this meeting with fans was more specific to baseball than his previous one in Kansas City, where he met with a family that had a lost a child, as well as meeting a fan who was battling cancer.

"I've never encountered a legend that was so willing to sit down and talk with fans in a one-on-one situation like that," said Douglas Pratt, a 53-year-old Mets season-ticket holder. "[I] always have respected the way he holds himself on the field and off. This was a great opportunity he gave us."

Rivera said he's had a "great" relationship with Mets fans, as they have always been respectful. Almost all of the people who asked a question prefaced it by complimenting Rivera for what he has done on and off the field.

"It makes me feel good because they respect the game and respect you as a person and they respect what you do," Rivera said.

The closer said he mostly hears from Mets fans about the 2000 World Series, which he recalls with fond memories. He had two saves on the way to his fourth World Series title.

"It was good because we play New York, stay here in New York, and that was the best of it," Rivera said. "Good for the fans. It was fun because we didn't have to travel."

One aspect of that series Rivera remembered, and told the group about, was former Mets outfielder Benny Agbayani predicting the Mets would win the series in five games. Rivera said to the group that one should never try to motivate the opponent.

"The point I was trying to bring was that you should never stir up things," Rivera said. "When you're playing sports you should never say you're going to do this. If you're gonna do it, you better do it."