Famed New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera is in Israel on a family visit.
On Thursday, the 45-year-old retired closer spent the day touring the Tower of David and other famous sites in Jerusalem’s Old City, putting in a prayer for his former team along the way.
“Hopefully, they will continue doing the job that they have been doing for all this time,” he said. “I hope and pray that they will continue.”
Rivera will be in Israel over the course of the next week visiting holy sites in a trip made with the assistance of the New York Board of Rabbis and the the Consul General’s office in New York. He is accompanied on the trip by his wife, children, parents and in-laws.
Speaking to the press, Rivera said this was a dream of his which he could not fulfill while playing baseball, that it had to be at the right time so he could bring his children.
Rivera retired in 2013.
Rivera mentioned that he wanted a trip that he would always remember, hoping to visit Christian holy sites and to be in a place where the Bible comes to life.
At the Tower of David Museum in Jerusalem’s Old City, he was greeted by Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and former Yesh Atid member of Knesset Rabbi Dov Lipman.
“We welcome you to Israel, where you will see things that you know about from the Bible and experience them,” said Levin at a press conference.
Lipman stated that Israeli baseball was looking forward to forging a relationship with him.
“Mariano, you are getting to see ancient Israel, as you said — connecting to our roots — but Israel is also modern. And as a modern state, of course we have to have baseball,” Lipman told Rivera.
Lipman presented Rivera with a sweatshirt of the Israel Association of Baseball, emblazoned with his name and iconic number 42, saying it was being given to him “on condition that you wear it proudly in the streets of New York.”
Mariano said he looks forward to doing so.
Rivera played his entire career with the New York Yankees, earning the lifetime record for saves.
Also visiting Israel this week was legendary NBA basketball coach and Miami Heat president Pat Riley, who expressed support Wednesday of Israeli-American Cavaliers coach David Blatt, saying he “expects nothing but great things ahead of him as he continues to coach in the NBA.”
On Tuesday, the Golden State Warriors beat Blatt’s Cavaliers to win the 2015 NBA championship.
Riley, who was the only first-year coach to have won the Finals since his 1982 Los Angeles Lakers victory, told Channel 5 — the Israeli sports station — that Blatt was “doing a wonderful job” in Cleveland.
Referring to reported tensions between Blatt and star player LeBron James, Riley, who dealt with James during his time with the Heat, reflected upon his own experience and said such high-profile players must be “managed correctly.”
Riley was in Israel as a guest of the Heseg Foundation, which provides former lone soldiers with academic scholarships and living expenses.
Also in Israel, a group of NFL Hall of Famers toured an Israel Defense Forces airbase Thursday and met with Israeli pilots.
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) June 18, 2015
Daniel Bernstein contributed to this report.