After buttoning up his new Yankees jersey for the first time, Gerrit Cole had a little surprise for everyone in attendance at his news conference to officially introduce him as a new member of the storied franchise on Wednesday.
Cole took a step to the side of the podium to reveal the sign he had in his iconic 2001 World Series picture that read "Yankee Fan, Today, Tomorrow, Forever." The letters may have faded away, but that dream of becoming a Yankee one day never did.
A lifelong Yankee fan as the sign says, Cole could've signed with New York out of high school when the team took him in the first round. But we all know how that went. Then, the Yankees tried to get to him via trade two years ago, but the Astros won that battle.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman made sure to keep tabs on Cole, though, mentioning the right-hander as being someone "from afar I've had a lot of admiration for." The interest was always there and now this is "the right time and the right place" for Cole to finally make his way to the Yankees.
"It was my dream," Cole said when asked why he chose the Yankees. "I had a second opportunity to chase it and it's the best organization, in my opinion, in the league."
Here's what else Cole and the front office touched on during the introduction:
COLE EXPLAINS HIS YANKEE FANDOM
Cole was asked how he became a Yankee fan living on the West Coast, and he said it all started with his father. He was a diehard fan, having gone to middle school and some parts of high school in New York.
And honestly, it was difficult for a kid not to like what he saw in pinstripes during Cole's childhood years.
"I was always a baseball fan. I love the game, I played it from a young age," Cole said. "It's hard not to fall in love with the Yankees from '94 to 2002."
Cole also talked about how he used to watch Yankee games right after school on his patio, as they would play at 4 p.m. out west.
AARON BOONE COULDN'T HOLD BACK HIS EXCITEMENT
Cole's decision was one that manager Aaron Boone was hoping he'd make. Boone flashed back to the first time he learned the Yankees were going hard after Cole in free agency, and he immediately got excited.
"I recall getting the word probably three, four weeks ago that we were going to be players for Gerrit Cole," Boone explained. "Following that, started scheduling a trip out west to meet with Gerrit, Amy and Scott and their representative and the excitement that goes with that. As the manager, when I hear we're going to be in play for arguably the game's best pitcher, that's exciting."
COLE EMBRACES THE NEW YORK PRESSURE
Cole got to experience the ultimate gut check in October when he took the mound at Yankee Stadium for Game 3 with his Houston Astros club. A decisive game on the road with a sold-out, raucous crowd hoping for your on-the-mound demise is tremendous amounts of pressure.
However, Cole got through the game as the winning pitcher, displaying his ability to get out of jams and shut down any hope for an offense. So he's fully prepared to take on any pressure New York throws his way in the coming years.
"Pressure is a privilege. Pressure comes in situations that you earned, right?" he said. "You pitch in big games in September and October because you've played well all year. So with that in mind, you have to have a process that you know you need to stick to, to perform in those games."
COLE HAS THE WORLD SERIES ON HIS MIND
Eight outs. That's all the Astros needed in their own building just two months ago to capture another World Series title, and it would've been Cole's first ring.
But the Nationals spoiled that late in the game, capturing their first ever World Series title instead. Cole doesn't want that feeling ever again, and believes it wouldn't happen with the Yankees.
"I was eight outs away from getting a ring," he said. "I felt like I could see the light underneath the door, and it was slammed shut in our face. I'm as hungry as ever to finish that journey, finish that challenge. And in my opinion, there would be no better place than to do it in New York."
COLE DIDN'T MIND SHAVING
Since he broke into the league, Cole has sported a nicely trimmed beard. But he knew that had to change when signing with the Yankees, and he got a headstart by coming clean cut to his news conference. It's something he joked about as he hadn't had to shave in 10 years.
"I experienced razor burn now for the first time in the last 10 years," he said.