There is no hill on the field at Yankee Stadium in December, but Gerrit Cole still performed excellently at his first pinstripe home game.
Wearing a # 45 jersey and a crisp Yankees hat at his introductory press conference on Wednesday, Cole delighted an audience of team leaders, coaches, and even some cynical reporters who were used to hearing boring platitudes from the megastars in the Bronx arrive.
Cole excelled in referring to the working masters of sports long before his time, considering what he expected from multiple titles, and the sign he took to the World Series in 2001 at the age of eleven swung and cheered the Yankees ,
For the Yankees, the press conference was a confirmation of the ease and trust they had drawn in with him. For Cole it was the culmination of a childhood fantasy.
"I remember when I was a little boy I dreamed of being a Major League baseball player, especially a Yankee," said Cole. "It is the right time and place to take this step."
Cole grew up in Southern California and worshiped the Yankees who selected him as a high school student in the first round of the year Amateur draft in 2008. But Cole voted to U.C.L.A. and was drafted No. 1 by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011. In 2018, he again eluded the Yankees when he was traded on the Houston Astros.
This season he went with Houston with 2.50 E.R.A. on 20: 5, finished second in the vote for the Cy Young Award of the American League and prepared for a mammoth payday in the Free Agency. He is said to have been followed by several teams in his pocket.
The Yankees would not miss him a third time. They secured Cole a $ 324 million nine-year contract – a record amount for a pitcher – and on Wednesday it was time to show it to the world and explain exactly why they had committed all the money.
"We have to win some world championships," said Hal Steinbrenner, the main owner of the Yankees, "and I think we will do that." Better sooner than later. "
Steinbrenner was asked to clarify: Did he mean more than one?
"Plural," he said.
The 29-year-old Cole did not shy away from the pressure of these expectations or the role he now plays in this pursuit as the ace of a team that had just completed its first decade without a World Series appearance since the 1910s.
"I'm not afraid," he said when he heard about Steinbrenner’s comments. "I dreamed of that. Who doesn't want to fight for a championship every year?"
Steinbrenner admitted that he had refused to offer such large pay days for free agents when he had the opportunity in the past. But Cole was too special to do without, he said. Brian Cashman, the general manager of Yankees, praised Steinbrenner for adding the ninth year of the deal to the beginning of the negotiations and said it separated the Yankees from the Dodgers and the Angels.
Cole, in turn, praised the Yankees with the language that every new signer could use and called them "the best organization in the league". But Cole brought a prop to support his words: he reached under the lectern to bring out the sign. He had participated in a 2001 World Series game in Arizona. It read: "Yankees fan this morning forever."
The pinstripes on the shield were faded and the letters yellowed, but Cole insisted that it was the boy he was when he became a fan of the club due to the influence of his father, who lived in New York for a while.
"I mean it's 18 years old," said Cole.
But perhaps it was most surprising when Cole took the opportunity to mention this Marvin Miller, the longtime player union leader who fought for the free hand in the 1970s, and Curt Flood, the player who challenged the reserve clause, were another big step in giving players the opportunity to have one test open market.
"We have seen competitiveness and freedom of choice grow, and he has played an important role in this," said Cole of Miller. "Curt Flood too. Contesting the reserve clause was essential to the thriving sport we have today. "
Cole later explained that he had learned from John Buck, a teammate in Pittsburgh, who challenged beginners on bus rides in a baseball version of the Socratic method. Buck would require the younger players to tell him who Miller and Flood are and why they are important. That rubbed off on Cole, and when he finally had the opportunity to taste the fruits of their labor and sacrifice, he didn't forget it.
"I hope that is the case in every major league bus," said Cole, "because challenging the reserve clause was one of the first steps towards ultimately achieving the system we have today, which I think is the most genuine Creates competitiveness that exists. " We have baseball. "
Now that the Yankees have cole, the balance of this competition is leaning a little more towards them.