Nearly 16 months after his son became a Yankee, Mark Cole will finally get to see Gerrit pitch at Yankee Stadium for the first time on Opening Day.
After Gerrit Cole’s first season in The Bronx was played in front of empty stadiums because of the pandemic, his father — who grew up a Yankees fan in upstate New York — will be in attendance Thursday to watch Cole get the start in pinstripes against the Blue Jays.
“It’s going to be pretty special for him,” Cole said Wednesday after a workout at the Stadium. “I can’t imagine the feeling. I can’t imagine what he’ll be feeling. It was nice to get him into the playoffs last year and see a postseason start in San Diego. But this is the mecca. This is Yankee Stadium. He’s going to be pretty fired up.”
Cole had joked during spring training that his dad said he would sit outside the gates of Yankee Stadium listening to the radio on Opening Day if fans weren’t allowed in. Luckily for Mark, he will be one of the 10,850 fans allowed in as the Stadium opens with a limited capacity while following COVID-19 protocols.
In addition to his dad — who took Cole to the Yankees’ 2001 World Series game, where the then 11-year-old held the now-famous sign that read, “Yankee Fan Today, Tomorrow, Forever” — Cole will also have his mom, sister, mother-in-law, wife and son in attendance for his second Opening Day start as a Yankee.
“We’ll have a small little group,” Cole said. “But it’s a special group.”
The $324 million right-hander posted a 2.84 ERA in his first season as a Yankee, striking out 94 batters in 73 innings. He will try to make the jump back to his usual heavy workload this season, with manager Aaron Boone recently saying that he believes Cole could hit 200 innings.
That journey begins in full on Thursday, and while Cole said he was already having trouble sleeping Tuesday night, the Yankees ace is ready to finally pitch with his dad and family among the fans in attendance.
“The bigger the game, the more people, the louder the buzz in general, in some senses [it] is easier to just block out and focus and put your blinders on and do your work,” Cole said. “I anticipate probably hearing some people cheering and having to be a little bit fluid with my focus. But for the most part, you expect buzz, you expect that energy you can feel throughout the stadium. I let that bring my adrenaline, let that bring my emotions up.
“I may take a peek up there [at my family] after I’m done. But we’re all business before I get taken out of the game.”