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Gerrit Cole brought out the same Yankees sign he’s had as a kid, and it’s perfect

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Gerrit Cole was introduced in New York on Wednesday, as the freshly shaven newly minted savior of the Yankees pitching staff signed to a record $324 million contract.

During the press conference, after the standard press conference faire of putting on the jersey over the dress clothes, Cole brought out a sign that read “YANKEE FAN TODAY TOMORROW FOREVER.” On its own, the sentiment was nice, but the story was even richer.

According to Cole, who said, “I just wanted to say I’m here, I’ve always been here,” it was the same sign he held in the right field stands at Bank One Ballpark in Game 6 of the 2001 World Series, featuring his Yankees against the Diamondbacks.

I knew of the sign before. It’s been well known that Cole grew up a Yankees fan. He was drafted by the Yankees out of high school in 2008 but opted instead to attend UCLA. The Yankees tried to trade for Cole from the Pirates in 2017, but Pittsburgh instead found a deal with the Astros. Now, the Yankees got their man. The third time was in fact the charm.

But still, my first thought when seeing these two pictures of apparently the same sign was: “How can they be the same sign when one is blue and the other is some sort of gold?”

I detest that my first thought was a cynical one. It’s a terrible, toxic trait. Maybe it was seeing the Nike swoosh — a new addition to all MLB jerseys in 2020 — so prominently featured on the classic Yankees pinstriped garb. Perhaps it was this country and democracy as we know it going to hell in a handbasket. Or it could be the prevalence of corporate number crunchers who have sucked the life out of so many terrific sports journalism staples for the sake of short-term profit.

I don’t want to be cynical. I don’t want to be the writer who talks about how much better sports were way back when. I don’t want to ever use the word “classy” if I can help it.

(I will not, however, relinquish my love of Bruce Springsteen. I’m a baseball writer, whose not above cliche, after all.)

It has been 18 years since that Cole held that sign at the World Series, so it’s perfectly reasonable to expect some fading. After all, have you ever perused old photo albums and noticed how some pictures fade over time? It’s perfectly reasonable for the blue writing on that sign to fade away over nearly two decades.

Plus, it’s just fun to believe. That joy when your favorite team wins resonates so much more when you’re a kid. The Yankees didn’t win a championship that year, when Cole was 11. But they did win one when he was 10, nine, eight, and six. I bet those felt amazing.

I’ve been a Lakers fan my entire life. The championships they won when I was 11 and 12 years old will always be my favorites. The title they won when I was 33 didn’t hold nearly the same weight. Then again, I wasn’t playing for the team at the time.

Cole, however, is signed from his age-29 through age-37 seasons with the Yankees. And if he wins one, or multiple championships, he’ll feel the euphoria of a little kid again.

Maybe it’s a sign.