Soon after he signed the largest contract ever given to a pitcher, Gerrit Cole was in Hawaii with his wife, Amy, for the wedding of a former college teammate. Coles cellphone rang one day with a number he didnt recognize. He answered it anyway.
After hearing, Hey, this is Reggie Jackson, Cole pulled the phone away from his ear for a second and uttered an expletive in delight. One of the biggest stars from the franchise he adored growing up and now belonged to was calling to congratulate him.
And when Cole arrived at the teams spring training facility in Tampa, Fla., this year, he still couldnt believe that Jackson, a Hall of Famer and a Yankees special adviser, was roaming the same grounds as he was.
I try to act cool, Cole, 29, said during a wide-ranging interview in March.
Since December, Cole, one of the best pitchers in baseball, has been, essentially, a kid in a candy store. He was not nervous about his first start in spring training in February, but he was in a casual game of catch with Andy Pettitte, the former Yankees pitcher who also serves as a special adviser. He called it surreal when Willie Randolph, the teams former star player and coach, gave him a fist bump after a preseason appearance because Coles father, who was raised in Syracuse, N.Y., and passed on his Yankees fandom to his son, had long admired the second baseman.