Trump presents Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mariano Rivera
Trump presents Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mariano RiveraReuters

Former New York Yankees relief pitcher, a five-time World Series champ and the first player voted unanimously into the Baseball Hall of Fame, was granted the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Trump on Monday.

In his remarks at the ceremony, Trump called Rivera “maybe the greatest pitcher of all time.”

“Throughout Mariano’s incredible career, he remained a humble man guided by a deep Christian faith that inspires everyone around him,” Trump noted. “As he says, he has always remembered that ‘The Lord doesn’t care about wealth or fame or the number of saves somebody has. We are all children of God, and the Lord cares about the goodness and love in our hearts. That’s all.’ Wow.”

“Mariano Rivera has made extraordinary contributions to American sports, culture, and society. He is the most dominant relief pitcher in the history of baseball. And more than that, he has lived the American Dream and shines as an example of American greatness for all to see,” Trump said of Rivera, who is originally from Panama and became a naturalized US citizen in 2015.

In contrast to many other star athletes, Rivera has expressed his support for the Trump administration, and calls the president a friend.

“Mr. President Trump to me, he was a friend of mine before he became president,” Rivera said in an interview on Fox Newsin July. “So, because he's president I will turn my back on him? No. I respect him. I respect what he does and I believe he's doing the best for the United States of America.”

He is also a staunch supporter of Israel, and has visited the country twice - once with his family and once as part of an interfaith mission organized by the New York Board of Rabbis and the Consulate General of Israel in New York.

In a July interview with the Washington Examiner, Rivera explained how his Christian beliefs led him to a connection with Israel.

“As a Christian, I do believe that the Lord gave us the Bible,” he said. “The Bible speaks about Israel. Everything — from New Testament, Old Testament — it’s all about Israel and the relationship his people have. So as a Christian, I understand that the chosen people of God is Israel — Jewish Israel. The country was made by him. All the other countries were made by men. This country was built by him for his people,” Rivera said.