Sports fans who see athletes snap at reporters’ questions might assume there’s always an adversarial relationship in the locker room. Gerrit Cole and New York Yankees announcer Suzyn Waldman are proof that there can also be long-lasting friendships in the business.
Waldman and Cole, stars in their respective fields, go back to before the pitcher even made it to the majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Suzyn Waldman has been a broadcasting pioneer
Sports fans in the tri-state area are familiar with Suzyn Waldman through her work broadcasting for the New York Yankees. She has been a radio color commentator alongside John Sterling on the MLB team’s games since 2005, a rarity for women in a job typically dominated by retired male athletes.
In fact, Waldman has more than three decades of sports work under her belt in assignments covering the Yankees, the NBA’s New York Knicks, and daytime radio talk shows.
Waldman, 73, is under contract with the Yankees’ radio network through the end of the 2020 season.
Before her sports broadcasting career, Waldman earned a college degree in economics and performed in musical theater. Before her affiliation with the Yankees, she even performed the national anthem at the 1986 American League Championship Series Game 7 at Fenway Park in her native Massachusetts.
A friendship with Gerrit Cole begins by chance
The New York Yankees drafted pitcher Gerrit Cole out of a California high school in 2008, but he opted to attend college instead. Cole had a stellar career at UCLA, and the Pittsburgh Pirates made him the No. 1 selection of the 2011 draft.
Already highly polished when he made his debut in the organization, Cole reached the majors in 2013 and went 59-42 in five seasons with the Pirates. He was then a sparkling 35-10 in two seasons with the Houston Astros. Cole signed with the New York Yankees as a free agent this past offseason for nine years and $324 million.
Cole had a chance meeting in 2011 with Waldman, who remembered him from a press conference after the Yankees drafted the right-hander three years earlier.
“You’re gonna make a great Yankee when you get to be a free agent,” Waldman told Cole, according to the New York Daily News.
It was a pretty bold prediction on the announcer’s part, but one that is looking good in the early going with Cole off to a 2-0 start in pinstripes.
Cole didn’t let Waldman’s prediction go unanswered. He put a condition on his arrival at Yankee Stadium, which took place nine years later. “If I do, you have to sing the national anthem on opening day,” he told her.
Suzyn Waldman’s promise to Gerrit Cole has been paid in full
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the 2020 MLB season into something much different than expected. Spring training was derailed in early March and the players were sent home. Owners and players were at odds over how to proceed, and the sides finally hammered out a plan for a 60-game regular season that began late last month.
The New York Yankees didn’t play their home opener until Friday, July 31, at which point Suzyn Waldman made good on her promise to new Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole by singing the national anthem from the broadcast booth.
Although Waldman had performed the anthem at the team’s game numerous times, this was the first time she had done so at the new Yankee Stadium.