Sunday, June 19, 2011
#457) LUIS RIVERA
Luis Rivera came to the New York Mets when he signed a free agent contract on January 19, 1994. The Mets were looking to create a tandem system with a major-league veteran and their young shortstop, Tim Bogar. Rivera initially looked to be that partner, and was predicted to appear in roughly two-thirds of the team's games. However, just prior to the start of the 1994 season, New York traded for Jose Vizcaino who moved to the role of starting shortstop. Had the trade occured one day earlier, it was almost certain that the Mets would have released Luis, who had fallen behind both Fernando Viña and Bogar in the battle for the position. The league deadline for early release waivers had passed and the team was comitted to paying Rivera his $425,000 base salary regardless of whether he made the club. "OK. So we're starting the season with four middle infielders," Mets general manager, Joe McIlvaine observed at the time. "That doesn't mean we will finish the season that way."
Rivera made his Mets' debut on April 9th at the Houston Astrodome. He entered the game in the bottom of the sixth-inning at shortstop. Then in his first at-bat for the team stroked a triple to left field during the 8-2 New York victory. Luis would deliver his first home run for the team on May 13th at Shea Stadium. Rivera's blast was a solo shot coming as a pinch-hitter off the Braves' Tom Glavine, and was one of only three hits the Mets would record during a 7-2 loss to Atlanta.
For the year, Luis would appear in 32 games, with three home runs, 5 RBIs, and a .279 batting average. His final game for New York was on August 11th. The next day Major League Baseball went on strike and ended the 1994 season. The work stoppage would cause the only cancellation of the World Series. Rivera was officially given his release in October, and signed as a free agent with the St. Louis Cardinals for 1995 when play resumed. He returned to the New York Mets organization for the 1996 campaign, but played the entire year in Triple-A Norfolk.
After his playing career, Luis has served as a coach in the minor-leagues beginning in 2000. Rivera returned to the big leagues as the Cleveland Indians first base coach from 2006-2009, and became part of the Toronto Blue Jays coaching staff in 2011.
Luis Rivera signed his card in the set for me before the Toronto Blue Jays and Cincinnati Reds game at Great American Ballpark on June 18, 2011.