“I’m here, I’ve always been here.”
In Gerrit Cole’s hands was the sign he created as an 11-year-old boy for the 2001 World Series that read “YANKEE FAN TODAY, TOMORROW, FOREVER”.
It was a long, convoluted process, but the 29-year-old ace is officially a Yankee after being introduced to the New York media on Wednesday morning in the Bronx.
The Yankees signed Cole to a record-setting nine-year, $324 million deal last week, providing the franchise with the ace they so desperately needed. Cole is coming off his finest season as a pro, going 20-5 with a 2.50 ERA and 326 strikeouts with the Houston Astros.
While the money certainly helped, it wasn’t too difficult a decision for Cole to join the Yankees.
“It was my dream [to play for the Yankees],” Cole said. “I had a second opportunity to chase it and it’s the best organization, in my opinion, in the league.”
“It doesn’t hurt to play for your favorite team.”
Cole was originally drafted by the Yankees in 2008, but the righty opted to attend UCLA before re-entering the selection process — where he was taken first overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates three years later. He spent five seasons with the organization before getting dealt to Houston.
Now, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman finally got his guy.
“We sat and watched him continue to grow,” Cashman said of his decade-plus wait for Cole. “Now, we’re here, at the right time and the right place.”
“This is a historic signing,” he continued. “It’s going to have to pay off moving forward because there are no guarantees of success.”
Cole’s acquisition immediately makes the Yankees a favorite for the 2020 World Series crown, a burden that he is not shying away from.
“Pressure is a privilege,” Cole said. “Pressure comes in situations that you’ve earned. You pitch in big games in September and October because you’ve played well all year.”
He was tantalizingly close to his first-ever title just two months ago when the Astros held a 2-0 lead in Game 7 of the World Series against the Washington Nationals.
But AJ Hinch opted not to call upon Cole in relief and on short rest, only for the Houston bullpen to concede six runs in the final three innings.
“I came eight outs away from getting a ring,” he said. “I felt like I could see the light beneath the door and it was shut in our face.”
If it wasn’t already obvious, he is ready to take an ax to that proverbial door this year.
“I’m as hungry as ever to finish that journey, finish that challenge. In my opinion, there’d be no better place to do it than in New York.”