A photo of 11-year-old Gerrit Cole supporting the Yankees at the 2001 World Series has resurfaced after his record $324 million contract

FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 14, 2019, file photo, Houston Astros Game 3 starting pitcher Gerrit Cole throws on the field at Yankee Stadium in New York, after the team arrived to prepare for the American League Championship Series, against the New York Yankees. Cole and the New York Yankees have agreed to a record Dollar 324 million, nine-year deal, a person familiar with the contract told The Associated Press, late Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

Associated Press

Gerrit Cole signed a historic nine-year, $324 million deal with the Yankees this week.

Gerrit Cole has played for two teams in his seven-year MLB career, but it's clear the newly-minted Yankees ace has always had a soft spot for the Bronx Bombers.

A photo of an 11-year-old Cole at Game 6 of the 2001 World Series between New York and the Arizona Diamondbacks has resurfaced on social media in light of the former Houston Astros pitcher's historic nine-year, $324 million deal with the Yankees.

Dressed in the Yankees' signature pinstripes and a navy New York ballcap, the young, beardless Cole is seen clutching a sign that reads "Yankee fan today, tomorrow, forever" and leaning over the outfield wall.

 

Former Newark Star-Ledger photographer and current Newsday Deputy Photo Editor Bill Perlman tweeted the photo of Cole, which he took at One Ballpark in Phoenix, Arizona, nearly two decades before the starting pitcher would command the highest annual salary for a pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball.

"Well congrats Yankees on finally getting him after three times," Perlman wrote. "I CAN SAY I GOT THE FIRST PHOTO OF HIM!!!"

According to reporting from NJ.com, the Newport Beach, California, native grew up a die-hard Yankees fan despite the considerable distance from his hometown to New York. Still, his parents sent him across the country to watch players like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera play at the old Yankee Stadium.

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REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine

Former Yankees star Andy Pettitte was one of Gerrit Cole's childhood idols.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman used that to his advantage in trying to woo Cole to New York, bringing his childhood hero, star left-handed pitcher Andy Pettitte, to meetings with the coveted asset, his wife, and his agent, Scott Boras.

Now, Cole will don the same historic pinstripes as his idol. The 29-year-old righty is a three-time MLB All-Star with a powerful four-seam fastball and a whiff-inducing slider in his arsenal. In 2019, Cole led the league with 326 strikeouts and the American League with a 2.50 ERA.

Cole will join a stacked bullpen in the Bronx next season that includes 2017 and 2018 All-Star Luis Severino, lefty power pitcher James Paxton, and Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka. New York won 103 games in 2019 but lost to Cole's Houston Astros in the ALCS 4-2. Should they ward off the injury bug that plagued them throughout last season, the Yankees appear to be a World Series favorite for 2020.

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