The Yankees formally introduced Gerrit Cole, their newly acquired 29-year-old All-Star pitcher, to the New York media Wednesday. But also in attendance in a way was 11-year-old Gerrit Cole, the passionate Bronx Bombers fan.
As he reached the podium at Yankee Stadium, Cole leaned down and then pulled out the sign he was photographed with at the 2001 World Series that read "YANKEE FAN TODAY TOMORROW FOREVER."
"I would just like to say I'm here," he said. "I've always been here."
"I'd like to thank God for blessing me with this amazing opportunity to fulfill my dream," Cole said. "I can 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 and the right place to take that step."
The Yankees officially announced Wednesday they signed Cole to a nine-year contract, reportedly worth $324 million -- a record for pitchers. The deal includes a full no-trade clause and allows him to opt out after five years.
His signing concludes the Yankees' decadelong pursuit of the right-hander. New York drafted Cole 28th overall in 2008, only to see him play for UCLA instead. The Yanks also tried unsuccessfully to trade for Cole after the 2017 season. He instead was dealt by the Pittsburgh Pirates to Houston, where he went 35-10 with a 2.68 ERA over two seasons.
Cole, who donned a No. 45 pinstripe jersey Wednesday, admitted it was an "extremely tough" decision to pass on the Yankees in 2008, but that he wasn't going to skip a second opportunity to chase his dream. He also called the Yankees "the best organization ... in the league."
Last season, Cole, 29, went 20-5 with an American League-best 2.50 ERA and MLB-leading 326 strikeouts, finishing second in the AL Cy Young voting. He was 16-0 with a 1.78 ERA over his final 22 regular season starts and then went 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA in the playoffs, in which Houston lost in the World Series in seven games to the Nationals.