Yankees' Mariano Rivera receives Presidential Medal of Freedom from Donald Trump

It’s been quite a year for retired New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in July as the first player to ever be unanimously elected. And on Monday he was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Donald Trump.

The ceremony started with Rivera entering to — what else? — “Enter Sandman” by Metallica, his iconic warm-up song.

Trump spent about 15 minutes going through Rivera’s biography, starting with his birth in Panama. He touched on Rivera’s journey to the majors, the development of Rivera’s famous cutter, several of his career highlights, and his eventual status as the greatest reliever of all-time.

Rivera is the co-chair of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition, and he and Trump have been friends since before Trump became president. Rivera has been criticized for his friendship with Trump — Rivera has co-hosted a fundraiser for Trump with one of Trump’s sons, and has publicly defended Trump on Fox News.

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Mariano Rivera through the years
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Mariano Rivera through the years
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 22: Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees walks out of the bullpen before the game against the San Francisco Giants during interleague play on September 22, 2013 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. Rivera was honored by the New York Yankees today with Mariano Rivera Day. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
New York Yankees' Derek Jeter, left, applauds as retiring Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte, back to camera, embraces relief pitcher Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning of Rivera's final appearance at a baseball game at Yankee Stadium, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, in New York. The Rays won 4-0. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Aug 14, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; Mariano Rivera throws out the first pitch before a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera waves to fans after recording his career record 602nd save against the Minnesota Twins after their MLB American League baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York September 19, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY PROFILE)
New York Yankees players (L-R) Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada (obscured), Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera look at the World Series trophy after the Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 6 to win the 2009 Major League Baseball World Series in New York, November 4, 2009. REUTERS/Pool-David J. Phillip (UNITED STATES SPORT BASEBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Mariano Rivera participates in a panel at Project Destined Bronx Bootcamp at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, March 4, 2018, in New York. (Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP)
Aug 12, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; Former New York Yankees Mariano Rivera embraces designated hitter Alex Rodriguez (13) on his last game as a Yankee before the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters Picture Supplied by Action Images (TAGS: Sport Baseball MLB) *** Local Caption *** 2016-08-12T232817Z_1547777004_NOCID_RTRMADP_3_MLB-TAMPA-BAY-RAYS-AT-NEW-YORK-YANKEES.JPG
Mar 1, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees guest instructor Mariano Rivera during Sunday morning workouts at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
New York Yankees Mariano Rivera (L-R), Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter listen to pitcher Andy Pettitte talk to the media during a news conference at Legends Field in Tampa, Florida, February 18, 2008. REUTERS/Steve Nesius (UNITED STATES)
Sep 25, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (2) hugs former player Mariano Rivera after hitting a walk-off single during the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera, who holds baseball's all-time saves record, smiles as he announces his plans to retire at the end of the 2013 season during a news conference at Steinbrenner Field Saturday, March 9, 2013 in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Former New York Yankees player Mariano Rivera acknowledges fans before an exhibition game "Legend Series" honoring him, between the New York Yankees and the Miami Marlins, at the Rod Carew Stadium in Panama City March 15, 2014. Major League Baseball and the New York Yankees returned to Panama for the first time in 67 years on Saturday, offering one final goodbye to Mariano Rivera and bringing the career of the game's greatest closer full circle. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso (PANAMA - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT SPORT BASEBALL PROFILE)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 29: David Ortiz #34 of the Boston Red Sox and Former Yankee Mariano Rivera share a laugh during a pregae ceremony to honor David Ortiz at Yankee Stadium on September 29, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
American League’s Mariano Rivera, of the New York Yankees, acknowledges a standing ovation during the eighth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, on Tuesday, July 16, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
New York Yankees Derek Jeter, standing center, applauds as Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera (42) tries out a rocking chair, one of many gifts Rivera received during a pregame retirement ceremony at Yankee Stadium before the Yankees baseball game against the San Francisco Giants, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, in New York. Rivera's sons Jafet, left, and Mariano Jr. watch the action. The 13-time All-Star closer is retiring at the end of this season. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
American League’s Mariano Rivera, of the New York Yankees, acknowledges the crowd as he is introduced during the eighth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, on Tuesday, July 16, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera tips his cap to the fans during the ninth inning of the Yankees' baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, at Yankee Stadium in New York. The Rays won 4-0 in Rivera's final home game. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
American League’s Mariano Rivera, of the New York Yankees, walks off the field with catcher American League’s Salvador Perez, of the Kansas City Royals, after pitching during the eighth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, on Tuesday, July 16, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Former New York Yankees player Mariano Rivera smiles as he pitches before an exhibition game "Legend Series" honoring him, between the New York Yankees and the Miami Marlins, at the Rod Carew Stadium in Panama City March 15, 2014. Major League Baseball and the New York Yankees returned to Panama for the first time in 67 years on Saturday, offering one final goodbye to Mariano Rivera and bringing the career of the game's greatest closer full circle. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso (PANAMA - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT SPORT BASEBALL PROFILE TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera signs autographs during a workout before the spring training baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida, March 8, 2010. REUTERS/Steve Nesius (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)
New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera pitches to the Minnesota Twins during the ninth inning of Game 2 of their MLB American League Divison Series baseball playoffs in Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 7, 2010. Rivera picked up his 600th career save. REUTERS/Andy King (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)
New York Yankees' Mariano Rivera and Alex Rodriguez (front) go for a fly ball against the Los Angeles Angels during the tenth inning in Game 2 of Major League Baseball's ALCS playoff series in New York, October 17, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES SPORT BASEBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)
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During Rivera’s remarks, he recounted the difficulty he had communicating with his teammates when he first started in professional baseball. He recalled going to bed crying because he couldn’t talk to his teammates due to the language barrier. He asked two of them to teach him, and by the end of the season he was able to talk to everyone. He ended his remarks by saying that he’s “proud to be an American.”

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