For less than two hours Thursday night, it was easy to slip into the familiar comforts of baseball. It wasn’t the baseball environment we all know and love, but it was baseball.
For Gerrit Cole and the Yankees, the rain shortened game was more than just that. It was an experience 12 years in the making. The Yankees drafted Cole out of high school in 2008, but he elected to attend college, thus the Yankees lost out on Cole’s rights. Fast Forward to 2017 where the Yankees offered the Pittsburgh Pirates a trade package to acquire Cole. Of course the trade fell through. In 2019 Cole was a huge part of the Yankees suffering as he lead the Houston Astros past the Yankees in the ALCS.
But the Cole-Yankees connection would finally become a reality in the 2019 offseason as they agreed to a massive 9-year $324 million deal. March 26th was the day we would finally see Gerrit Cole in a Yankees uniform, and then COVID-19 swept the nation.
Considering the extended wait of Cole being a Yankee, it only made sense that Yankees fans would have to wait an extra four months to finally lay eyes on Cole’s Yankees debut.
He was accustomed to waiting too.
“It just hit me that this was really happening,” Cole said after the Yankees’ 4-1 victory in a game that was called in the top of the sixth inning.
In the hours before his start, he had walked through the Yankees clubhouse and seen his teammates in their road grays, and that’s when it finally sunk in for him. It wasn’t the news conference, the spring training Part 1 in Tampa nor the training camp Part 2 in the Bronx. It was just before his debut when it registered he was realizing the dream he’s held since he was a child and a Yankees fan growing up in Southern California.
The immensity of the moment definitely got to Cole early on. He took the mound against the Nationals full of adrenaline that made him feel different from the nerves he’s felt on Opening Days past. That adrenaline may be the reason for laying a pitch over the plate which Nationals OF Adam Eaton hit for a home run.
Cole settled in, and that mistake pitch to Eaton would be the only hit and run he allowed in the rain shortened victory.
The Yankees had stepped onto the field as visitors in the Nationals’ house, and as bystanders as Washington celebrated its 2019 World Series victory. It was an awkward ceremony considering there were no fans in attendance to cheer, just opponents coming for that title this year.
Yankees Manager Aaron Boone believes that ceremony gave his team a little edge heading into first pitch.
“Our guys came out with an edge,” manager Aaron Boone said. “You could sense that in the dugout.”
New York started its season on a high note, with Giancarlo Stanton ambushing a pitch from Max Scherzer to send the ball 459 feet into the stands and give Cole a two-run lead before he even set foot on the field. They would add two more runs, capping off their 4-1 victory.
Cole usually goes into great detail about his outing, what he did great, what he can improve on. But after his first Yankees game, all he could focus on was the experience. Cole’s joy was unmistakable. During the post game conference Cole said “I had so much fun!” multiple times.
Cole said he called his wife, Amy, to tell her how he felt about his first experience of pitching for the Yankees in a game that actually counted.
“I can’t believe I’m gonna get a complete-game one-hitter in my debut.”
The thunderstorms lasted for longer than the game had actually been played, and the night ended nearly four innings early, though Cole and his teammates didn’t seem to mind. Five innings, 75 pitches, five strikeouts, and finally, one Yankees debut.
Knowing Cole, he can’t wait to get out there for his next start, and his first at Yankees Stadium.