|Gerrit Cole at the podium, with Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman and team President Randy Levine (at right) and his agent, Scott Boras (second from left). Photo by Jason Schott.|
The Yankees introduced their new ace, Gerrit Cole, at a lavish press conference on Wednesday morning at Yankee Stadium.
Cole signed a 9-year, $324 million contract last week to join the Yankees, making him the highest-paid pitcher ever in baseball history.
The Yankees faced off against Cole this past October in the ALCS when the big right-hander was pitching for the Houston Astros, and he won a pivotal Game 3 matchup at The Stadium on the way to Houston's winning the series in six games.
Cole went 20-5 with an American League-best 2.50 ERA (212 innings, 142 hits, 66 runs/48 walks, 326 strikeouts, 29 home runs), and finished second to his teammate Justin Verlander in Cy Young Award voting.
Before spending the last two years with Houston, Cole pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates for five seasons. He became a Pirate after they drafted him out of UCLA, which he chose to attend after being drafted by the Yankees out of high school.
The Yankees tried to acquire him from Pittsburgh after the 2017 season, so the third time's the try for a kid who grew up a Yankee fan in California on his long road to The Bronx.
Here is what Cole, who was joined by his wife, Amy, had to say upon arriving in New York:
I have a few thank yous. First off all, I'd like to thank God for blessing me with this amazing opportunity to fulfill my dream.
I remember, as a little boy dreaming about being a Major League Baseball player, specifically a Yankee, and like (General Manager) Brian (Cashman) said, it's the right time to take that step.
I'm just tremendously excited, and I hope there's a lot of young boys out there that chase their dreams just like I did.
I'd like to thank my parents, as well, my sister, Erin, and my wife, Amy, for giving support over the years. Family is so important to have a good backbone, and have people that unconditionally love you and support you. I'm truly blessed in that regard as well.
I'd like to thank Scott (Boras, his agent), we've had a really unique relationship over the years. I grew up playing baseball against his son, so I've known him for almost fifteen years at this point. That's pretty unique, I think in this game, and we have a very special relationship, and this is I guess the culmination of that relationship. I would like to thank you and your staff for all their hard work to get us to this position.
I would like to thank my teammates along the way, from high school to UCLA to Pittsburgh and Houston. There are a lot of individual stats in this game, but they're not any good if you don't have support from your teammates. I've learned a lot over the years from a lot of guys who have been so gracious with information, taking me under their wing, teaching me how to go about the game the right way, supporting me on the field, backing me up. I can't thank them enough.
I would like to thank a few specific coaches. One of my dearest friends, essentially my brother, Zack Doan, taught me how to throw a baseball, so I'd say he did a pretty good job of that. Coach (John) Savage at UCLA was instrumental in developing all of our maturity while we were there, how to handle a school workload as well as a sport in college, trying to be as professional as we could as we grew up in that environment; and my pitching coaches along the way, Ray Seerage (with the Pirates) and Brent Strom (with Houston) put a lot of time into trying to get us all better.
I think I would also be remiss if I didn't mention a few other names special to the baseball family. Marvin Miller, specifically, what a special year for him to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame. We've seen competitiveness blossom and free agency blossom, and he played a major role in that. Curt Flood, as well, challenging the Reserve Clause was essential to the blossoming sport we have today, and to all the players that sacrificed to get us into this position, and preserving the integrity of the game that we all love.
I'd also like to thank the Steinbrenner family and the Yankees for bringing me on - like I said it's a dream come true - and Brian, thanks for hanging in there for all those years. Damon Oppenheimer's not here, but Damon, Randy (Levine), Brian, in their own way reached out or stayed in touch and passed along good wishes along the journey until this point, and I think nothing represents the brand of the Yankees better than the class that they have shown over the years. Some people don't quite take the word no as well as these guys did, and I would say it paid off for sure.
Cole response to the question of why he choose the Yankees?: It was my dream. I had the second opportunity to chase it. It's the best organization, in my opinion, in the league. There's a process here that Brian spoke to and that he just alluded to a couple minutes ago about trying to bring the best people to each individual position and surround everybody with the best possible opportunity to succeed, and I think they've done that certainly through Brian's tenure over the last two decades. So, it instills a lot of confidence as a player when you hear those things, and it doesn't hurt to play for your favorite team.
Cole on when and why he became a Yankee fan as a kid: My father went to middle school and high school here in New York. His favorite players were Willie Randolph and Mickey Rivers, and I was always a baseball fan, played it from a young age, and I don't know, I feel like it's hard not to fall in love with the Yankees from 1994 to 2002. He obviously was partial to the Yankees, and every young kid wants to be like their dad, right, so I wanted to be a Yankee fan. I grew up going to a lot of Angels games because it was the one baseball outlet that was closest to us, and I was fortunate to be able to watch a lot of live Major League Baseball as a kid. You know, the Yankees were on at 4:00 every day, so I'd rush home from school, pop the TV on outside, maybe invite a couple of my buddies over, Tyler and Charlie, and we'd sit on the patio and watch the Yankees games. I had a wonderful opportunity to go to the 2001 World Series (in Arizona) and I had that sign, and I think that was probably the only time the entire nation was rooting for the Yankees after the unfortunate events earlier that year. What a franchise, tradition and success and championships, it kind of embodies the true American dream.