Tollhouse, California – Former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is a big hit with the Sierra High School band. Thanks to his generosity the band is now sporting new uniforms and musical instruments. But Rivera says what made it special for him was delivering the gifts in person. He flew from Korea to New York to Fresno before driving the final hour to Tollhouse.
Rivera got a standing ovation from the student body at Sierra High as he walked onto the football field. He laughed when recalling the band's reaction to the new uniforms and instruments. "I mean, it was like you giving a bag of gold or something like that ... even worse because they were hugging those instruments. That's the beauty of it."
The old band uniforms are 41 years old. Many of the instruments are in sad shape too. Music Director Bruce Weinberger, a 31 year veteran at Sierra High couldn't believe his eyes. "They are so classy. Honestly I would just put them in the top three uniforms I've ever seen in my life for any band. They're just so classy."
Much of the credit for the gift goes to a senior band member, Dylan Baize, who has known Rivera since birth. Dylan's great-aunt Naomi is considered like a second mom to Mariano. "I was telling her about the band and how much the band is a family to me. And so she got inspired. I told her about the old uniforms and how raggedy they were," he recalls.
Great-aunt Naomi bounced the idea off Rivera. "And I heard and I said, 'You know what I think we can help with this'."
The Sierra High Band took the field in their new threads playing the song "Sand Man," a song the closer heard when it was time to go to work in Yankee Stadium. Rivera posed for pictures and offered hugs. He called it a special day. For Sierra High it was a day he changed the sight and sounds of the high school band for decades.
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