Call it the “Metal” of Freedom.
Baseball Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees was the latest athlete to be honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Trump on Monday — and his ceremony kicked off in a fairly unforgettable fashion.
At first, a trumpet played as an announcer introduced the pair to the White House’s East Room: “Ladies and gentlemen, the 45th president of the United States, accompanied by No. 42, Mariano Rivera.”
Then, the opening bars to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” began playing.
As soon as the opening riffs started, two stone-faced security aides standing at the door of the room could each be seen smiling to themselves in a clip posted online by ABC News.
“The Sandman,” Trump said as he took the podium, referencing Rivera. “My wife asked me, ‘Why the Sandman? Just tell me.’ The first lady. I said, ‘Because he puts the batter to sleep, right?’ The Sandman. A lot of people don’t know that. But the Yankees fans know that.”
The Metallica hit is also Rivera’s entrance song.
Rivera was the first unanimous Hall of Fame pick by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He pitched 19 seasons in the major leagues, all with the Yankees, and retired with 952 games finished — also a record.
A 13-time All-Star, Rivera helped the Yankees win five World Series titles and seven American League pennants. He led the AL in saves three times and finished with 40 or more saves nine times, a record he shares with Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman.
Red Sox fans might also remember him for something else: The biggest hit in Red Sox history was Bill Mueller’s game-tying single off Rivera in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series against the Yankees. The Sox, facing elimination, won that game and went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals for the franchise’s first World Series championship since 1918.
Trump, in his praise of Rivera, called him “maybe the greatest pitcher of all time,” and also praised the Panama native who became a US citizen on his charity work.
However, his baseball prowess might not be the only thing Trump likes about Rivera. The baseball player, who is also a vocal evangelical Christian and a pro-Israel advocate, defended his support of Trump earlier this summer on Fox News.
“President Trump, to me, he was a friend of mine before he became the president,” Rivera said on Fox. “So I mean, because he’s president, I will turn my back on him? No. I respect him. I respect what he does. I believe he’s doing the best for the United States of America.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.