Mumba Rivera - Half Man, Half Amazing

RHP Mumba Rivera (Photo/Max Waugh)

APPLETON, Wisc. - Mumba Rivera is 6-0. His ERA is at a dazzling 2.52 through nine starts. Opponents are having a hard time getting hits against him, and he is very quickly becoming the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers' most consistent starter. InsidethePark's Jake Fannin caught up to the right-hander recently to find out more about the former basketball player's intriguing past.

As crazy as it sounds, Rivera is only playing today baseball because of a bet.

The Timber Rattlers' hard-throwing right hander from the Virgin Islands was recruited to play basketball, not baseball, at Marshalltown Community College in Iowa. One day, while watching baseball with some of his roommates, Rivera made a comment that he could throw a 90 mph fastball.

The bet was on.

"I went to school the next day in the morning, and my roommate had told the whole baseball team, everybody, that I could throw 90 mph," Rivera said. "So one day we had a picnic for the athletes at the community college, and my roommate was like, 'Let's do it now'."

Rivera started to warm up, but was getting a little heat from the athletes around him for taking his time; so he stepped back and starting firing.

"The coach was like, 'Yeah, that's 90,'" Rivera recalled, laughing. "He asked me to show him a curveball, so I did, and then he asked me to try out for the team."

Rivera made the team, played well enough to continue on to Bethune-Cookman College after graduating from Marshalltown, and then, after two sparkling seasons, was drafted by the Mariners in the 21st round last June.

"There's so much in the way of emotion that plays a large role in the success or failure with these guys, and the stuff that comes out of their hand doesn't always dictate how they are going to fare on that day," Rattlers' pitching coach Brad Holman said. "The consistency that he (Rivera) has brought to the table and his ability to be assertive, even in a pressure environment… he is still the same guy, and that is hard to do."

The truth to that statement is almost scary.

Rivera's sixth victory (May 19th) was the first start this season in which he allowed more than four hits (he surrendered six). Talk about consistency.

But how has he been able to stay consistent?

"Work hard, just keep working hard," said the right-hander. "You know, if a pitcher has a good game, teams are going to be coming after him. So I am just going to have to focus, and keep hitting my spots with my pitches."

If the current season provides any indication on how focused Rivera is going to be, the Mariners and their fans are in for a real treat; because the right-hander has been nothing short of dominant. After a team-wide strong start, each of the Rattlers' starters has fallen into something of a difficult spell. Each, that is, except for Rivera.

Every fifth day, the Rattlers know they are going to be in the game to the end, because Mumba Rivera has proven it every time he's stepped out on the mound this season.

That was some bet.

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