Yankees ace Gerrit Cole throws some curveballs to Post columnist Steve Serby in a Q&A session.
Q: Does your son Caden, who will turn 3 in June, have any idea what you do?
A: He knows I’m a baseball player, and he knows that I play for the Yankees, and he knows our starting lineup pretty much by heart. Does he grasp the whole concept? No. But he has enough that it reminds me of, really, like the joy that I think we all have when we start playing this game.
Q: So he reminds you of Anthony Volpe then?
A: (Chuckle) Yeah, he reminds me of Volpe. Volpe’s been so great for us. I don’t even care what the numbers say, just a winning player, excellent defensive shortstop, never taking at-bats off, and is so happy to be here and so humble and so focused, just like a magical combination — like you would imagine a kid to be in that situation.
Q: Will Caden be a pitcher?
A: Right now he hits from both sides, and he can throw from both sides. Mostly, he loves home runs right now. (Smile) He was in the stands with his mom against the Phillies — which he calls the Billies. He’s s big fan of the Billies because they’re red, which is his favorite color. And he was getting frustrated because the Billies weren’t hitting any home runs, so he was asking his mom after every out that I recorded if it would be OK if the Billies hit a home run.
Q: What did she say?
A: (Laugh) She kept saying, “No, no, no, no.” That’s just another example of just the joy I think that the sport can bring people.
Q: What if Caden grows up and says, “Daddy, I want to play for the Red Sox or the Mets?”
A: (Smile) I mean, as much as I love the Yankees with all my heart, I love my son with all my heart as well, and I’ll be his biggest advocate regardless of what team he plays for. If he were to play for the Red Sox or the Mets , it’d be hard to get me in a lot of Red Sox or Mets gear though, I can tell you that (laugh).
Q: Would you want him to be a major leaguer?
A: I would love him to do whatever he wants to do. It’s hard to tell what his interests are, he’s so exposed to baseball all the time during the season and during spring training, but when the World Cup was on and we were watching soccer on a regular basis, we were playing soccer every single day, and when football playoffs were going on, we were watching football, we were playing football every single day. He’s at a super impressionable age. I think he has some joy of his own. When we have a bunch of people watching a football game, and everyone else is into the football game, that makes him more into the football game and whatnot. So I think he feeds a little bit off the energy of whoever’s in the room, but also his own fascination with sport in general. I don’t know what he’s gonna want to do, I have an inclination that he probably will love baseball most, but really whatever he wants to do, his parents will be behind him.
Q: When you don’t pitch, is he watching the games on television?
A: Yeah, he does watch the games, at least first couple of innings — 7 o’clock games he goes to bed around 8-8:30, so he gets like the first inning or so and then shuts it down. All the day games, he’s usually watching, and also playing at the house while it’s on the TV. My wife enjoys baseball too, so it’s either Yankees or Giants.
Q: So is he a lefty or righty thrower?
A: I think he’s a righty thrower. He puts the glove on his right hand because he can control the glove on his right hand. I think he’s generally right-handed, but at the same time, when he picks up a bat, he swings left-handed. So we got a little bit of both.
Q: So how would you describe fatherhood?
A: Exponentially, keeps getting better. Every time I think that this is the cutest, sweetest, funniest, silliest stage, in another like four weeks he blows my mind again. And I have another one at 3 months [old] with his personality kind of just starting to poke through. He melts me … babies to daddies, they change so fast. I went away for like a week-and-a-half and he grew an extra inch and his face thinned out, and then I was home for four-five days and he put a bunch of weight back on his cheeks. He’s always following his brother wherever he hears his brother — if he can’t see him, he throws a fit. Caden really loves it, too. They already have kind of a really special connection where they both are kind of on the same team … not that Everett has developed quite so much to not like his brother, he’s just permanently fascinated with him, but Caden is equally fascinated with the fact that he has like a teammate.
Q: Describe your wife Amy.
A: She’s a brilliant woman. She’s full of empathy and full of love. She’s fierce, she’s an ultimate competitor, she’s college World Series champion, four-year [UCLA] softball player — the only Bruin in the family to have a national championship between me and Brandon [Crawford, brother-in-law who plays for the San Francisco Giants] and my sister Erin and [sister-in-law] Jenna, so she has bragging rights over that, and she’s represented our school well. She’s a fierce woman, she’s a powerful woman. She’s so socially graceful, I lean on her and I learn a lot from her. She seems to have a lot of different strengths that aren’t necessarily my strengths, so we make a good combination where we make each other better.
Q: Your non-strengths being what?
A: Socially, she has a way of making people light up … venting to her or wanting to talk to her or finding comfort in having her listen to them. She assimilates to different situations very quickly, and she’s always been like that. She’s always been well-liked right from the get-go from everybody. Sometimes I think maybe I can be a little rough around the edges, and so when I have a partner like that with me all the time, some of that positive energy and those traits hopefully (laugh) over the course of the last decade are hopefully bleeding off on me.
Q: Did she help your adjustment to New York, and does she listen to you when you come home after a bad outing or are in a bad rut?
A: Yeah, she’s always been there for me, not just in New York … at my big moments throughout my career. She’s been there in my lowest points; she’s been there in my highest points. She’s a great listener. I don’t know how she does it. Sometimes it’s hard for me to listen to myself at times, I think we can all kind of relate to that. But I’m blessed to have somebody that has always been there to absorb the blows, and at the same time, just always be an advocate in my corner regardless of what experience we’re going through. Then it was a big part of the decision to come to New York as well, because I felt that she was not only intrigued about it, but we both wanted to raise our kids out here to a certain extent and give them a different experience than we had ever had growing both up in California — in like beachy, sleepy West Coast-type towns. We’ve always been fascinated with New York, and knew that like anywhere, there’s positives and negatives, but the culture aspect, the tenacity aspect of the city, the worldly nature of just so many different people and so many different walks of life — like what a wonderful experience it would be if our kids had a connection to that city. I would not have felt as comfortable with that aspect of it if I didn’t have somebody like Amy with me.
Q: What are your favorite New York City things?
A: We like the parks, Caden loves the parks. We love to go to the theater, we love to go out to eat, we like to shop. But I think the buzz is back in the city, and the city’s back on its feet again, and it’s got that energy that we all know and love. … You know, you wake up and you’re in the City That Never Sleeps, and there’s just no other place in the world like it.
Q: Aaron Boone said that he considers you underrated and underappreciated.
A: I think, first of all, what makes Aaron Boone such a great manager is he is so deep in his players’ corners. He’s always just an absolute advocate for his players whether it’s on the field or off the field. And he’s there for his players to constructively criticize, to vent, to coach, to be there as a friend. What a unique skill set he has altogether to be able to manage all the different pieces here. So I think just as highly of Aaron I think as he thinks of me. My first reaction when I hear him say stuff like that is I’m very humbled and appreciative of the respect that he has for the way I go about my craft. But again, a lot of the success that I’ve had here and that we’ve had here is because it’s been a team effort, is because our catchers are on top of their craft, is because our pitching coaches and our analytic guys and our manager are also pouring into me the same way that I’m trying to pour into them. So it’s not a one-man show. Those compliments wouldn’t be made possible if it wasn’t for the people that were surrounding me.
Q: Is there or was there a chip on your shoulder because maybe some people have underappreciated or underestimated you?
A: I don’t think so. I think there’s a chip on my shoulder just because I have high expectations. I also know that other people’s opinions are other people’s opinions, and to a certain extent, some of those aren’t really my business at all. I try to find a level of consistency. I have a high desire to be great, I have a high standard of excellence, and I keep those as my motivating factors, so that one week if I’m really good or one week I’m really bad, I can find somewhere in the middle to always keep pressing on. I try to bring out that consistency that the great players that I’ve watched over the course of my lifetime and am trying to emulate, I feel that like it’s internally driven.
Q: What would a Cy Young mean to you?
A: It’s not my main focus. It would make me really proud to bring a Cy Young home for the Yankees organization. And it would be a great representation of, again, my catchers showing up every day, and our coaches showing up every day. … The award is not representative of just one player, it’s representative of the collective unit that gets the player prepared, that battles with the player. In order to accumulate wins, in order to attack the strike zone, you need offense, you need good defense. It’d be a good representation that we did a really good job as a group more oftentimes than not, and it would make me proud to represent the Yankees in that way, and add another collection to their numerous trophies.
Q: Would your career be unfulfilled if you didn’t win a championship?
A: Yes. I don’t even try to think about whether it would be unfulfilled. That’s like the main goal on my mind. I think that I never thought it would be unfulfilled because I always think it’s a possibility. Coach [John] Wooden … we were studying him one time and talking about his 11 championships in a row [at UCLA] and how he really wasn’t trying to win a championship, and he kind of instilled in his players and created a culture of like, every single day is your masterpiece, and focus on the things that you can control, and when you’re going into those championship games, he was trying to play those championship games the same way, with the same discipline that he played the first game of the season. I believe that that process ultimately will produce a championship. I believe in that process, that’s what we’ve been taught, and the best teams that I’ve made runs on to the World Series or into the postseason have those characteristics. So that’s what I’m shooting for, and I haven’t really thought of it being like unfulfilled if we didn’t win one.
Q: You expect to win one?
A: Yeah, I expect to win one. Regardless of winning one or not, I will hold myself to that standard that Coach Wooden taught us at UCLA.
Q: You look bigger and stronger this year.
A: I’m carrying pretty much about the same weight, maybe fluctuating like a couple of pounds higher. I think my delivery’s in a good spot. I think I’m staying within myself and over my body. A term that we use is stacked, kind of where your weight is centered, so maybe that’s playing into it. I do think that I’m in a really good position of strength. It’s always been easy to lay down more strength after having a full complete season of innings before going into the offseason. It was a challenge to get through 2020 when the volume of work during the regular season dropped dramatically for a year-and-a-half there. Much more accustomed to throwing 200 innings and then breaking it all down in the offseason and doing it again.
Q: Is there one pitch that has been more of a weapon than it had been?
A: No, but there’s one common theme for the few starts, and that’s been command. I think commanding the ball and whatever pitch that we want to throw at a high rate.
Q: You allowed 33 home runs last year. How much did that bother you?
A: It bothers me in ones that flip the game late. When we’re leading late, into the sixth or in the seventh inning, and somebody flips the score, or somebody ties the score, yeah those ones hurt. The solo home runs and home runs early in the game, as a pitcher, you gotta attack the zone and trust your offense in the sense that like you have to score to win, and in order to stay efficient you have to attack the strike zone. So there are gonna be negative outcomes when you come over the plate, but certainly the ones that change the momentum later in the game with less opportunity to get those runs back are the ones that hurt the most.
Q: Would you like to play into your 40s, a la Tom Brady?
A: (Laugh) I would like to pitch as long as I can. I do feel in a sense that I have a gift and I’ve been very blessed and that I’m not necessarily just the only person that enjoys that gift, so I respect it enough to want to squeeze every possible drop out of it that I can. My focus has always been on durability and longevity since I’ve been in high school and since my dad and I started counting throws and tracking pitches from 11, 12, 13 years old. So however long it may be, if I feel that I can do it, I do feel like in a sense that I owe it to that to do it as long as my kids and my family are on board with that.
Q: Would you like to retire as a Yankee?
A: I would love to retire as a Yankee. Of course, that’s the goal.
Q: Your manager also mentioned Cooperstown.
A: Again, humbled by the thought.
Q: Do you think about it?
A: I think about a career of excellence all the time. There’s one accolade that I’m really working towards, and that’s the World Series. The rest of the stuff kind of falls in place if you take care of what you take care of and you go about your business. The people in the Hall of Fame have a combination of greatness and longevity, and I think there’s room for improvement in both of those areas for me, so at the time being, I think it’s most important to not think about that and keep my head down and stick with my process that I have.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: Any sort of delicious protein cooked over a wood fire, with some sort of sauce, like a chimichurri or a romesco or a pesto, and just kind of an assortment of vegetables and starches. I have this Argentinian grill called a Santa Maria, and it’s just my favorite thing to cook on.
Q: How often do you cook?
A: I cook a little less than I used to — there are a lot of nicks and burns and things that you pick up in the kitchen inadvertently that aren’t necessarily great for keeping your hands in condition to pitch, so I am careful and conscious of that. But I do love to cook, and I love to host my family. Amy and I and my dad, we made this fantastic meal this offseason for the family for Thanksgiving. So the combination of executing that food and being around the people that you love and celebrating that food with them at the end, that’s one of my favorite things to do besides playing for the Yankees.
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Q: What can you tell me about Hope Week?
A: Never come across anything like that in any other organization. I’ve never been in an organization that has that, and I’ve never seen another organization do it. And I just think it’s a great way to just reach out to the community and uplift some great stories and things that either somehow intertwine with baseball or don’t necessarily intertwine with baseball, but people need to hear about it. What a unique way to connect with the New York community.
Q: Your sister Erin was a fan of Lou Gehrig?
A: I think we both did reports on him. I did like an elementary school report on him, and I think my sister did one in middle school. My dad is involved in medical device development, and he has a Ph.D. in pathology, the study of diseases. He specified more in cancer, but I think that learning about Lou Gehrig and my dad teaching us about Lou Gehrig and how debilitating and terrible that disease [ALS] was, I think we had maybe a good understanding of that, which I thought maybe contributed to our fascination for why he was such a wonderful human being and marvelous player. He also went to college, which is what my folks always harped on and wanted us to do. So he was an example that my dad used for us in a lot of different ways and that was probably our main reason for fascination with him.
Q: How long did it take you to get over losing to the Astros in the ALCS last year, and do they have a psychological edge over the Yankees?
A: It was easy to accept: We got beat. We got beat every game, and the numbers obviously back that up. I’m not sure I sense the psychological variable that you’re talking about. I’ve obviously been on both sides of this rivalry, I guess you would say, or of this competition between the two, and there are a lot of similar mindsets on both clubs, really. It just comes down to putting up when you need to put up. And so we haven’t done that yet. We fully expect the Astros probably to be in the championship series, they’re a great club with great pedigree, numbers in history would suggest all those types of things and numbers would suggest that the path to the World Series at some point probably runs through or around Houston. We’re gonna have to play our best ball to beat a club of that caliber, and even if it’s not Houston in the championship series, if it’s another team, the situation’s gonna be the same: We’re gonna have to play our best baseball to get past that team, because that team is gonna be extremely competitive and elite.
Q: What’s the best part about being a Yankee?
A: The best part about being a Yankee is how every aspect of the organization, including the fan base, has a championship mentality. Everyone. From the doormen to the fan in the upper deck to the fan casually walking down the street — everybody has a championship mentality. Maybe that’s part of the identity of the city, too. That’s special, that’s unique. And that’s the best part about being a Yankee, is that like-mindedness.
Q: Any surprises?
A: Some of the players, like getting to know Aaron Judge and seeing him from afar and thinking what he would be like on a daily basis, and then being surprised that, yeah, he wears the superhero cape every day when he’s not on the field and when he’s in the clubhouse and when he’s in the cold tub, he’s always got the cape on. He’s the real deal. And being around a lot of special players that are equally as special human beings. That’s not always the case, but we have a wonderful mix of that here.
Q: Any message for Yankees fans about this team or about you?
A: This team this year has a great vibe about it, great jell about it. An awareness that we have to get better, and then this enjoyment factor as well, of embracing that we need to get better and having fun along the way. I think it’s a mix of the clubhouse. I think this young talent that we have. I think Volpe, I think Cabby [Oswaldo Cabrera], [Oswald] Peraza, [Jhony] Brito, that energy is invigorating. Combine that with the discipline of some of our veterans, and it’s just a unique vibe. The team’s coming together.
Q: Do you get a sense of how hungry this team is?
A: This team’s hungry. This team has very high aspirations and very high expectations. And we hold ourselves accountable to that.