Harrison Bader had timely hits during the end of the regular season when he returned from the injured list, but the faith that the Yankees had in him was clearly presented on Tuesday night in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.
After starter Gerrit Cole gave up a third-inning home run that allowed the Cleveland Guardians to take a 1-0 lead, Bader stepped up to the plate as the second batter of the inning. The outfielder proceeded to hit a momentum-changing shot to left field that went into the stands and sent the sold-out crowd at Yankee Stadium into celebration.
It was a moment that Bader, who grew up in nearby Bronxville, New York, had dreamed of as a young Yankee fan back in the day and even more recently as he worked his way back from plantar fasciitis that kept him off the field until Sept. 20.
“I mean, it means a lot. You know, to me, truthfully, really it was just another at-bat. Just another game. I truly do like to play the game emotionless,” Bader said after the Game 1 win. “However, when I do think about it for a second, you know, it does mean a lot to my parents. My dad’s dad was a very big Yankees fan, so I’m sure he would be very proud of this moment. I think all of those things are very nice, but there’s such a long road ahead in October, ultimately in November, that I will save all of those emotions for a later date.
“But no doubt it’s special. I will acknowledge that for a second.”
Harrison Bader’s first home run as a Yankee ties the game in the playoffs! pic.twitter.com/Ne7x8e9SKz
— Talkin' Yanks (@TalkinYanks) October 12, 2022
While Bader maintained his composure while he went around the basepaths, the fans in the stands cheered for the New York outfielder. However, Bader’s short time in pinstripes had been met with the most enthusiasm initially from Yankees fans.
Bader had still been injured at the time general manager Brian Cashman traded for him in exchange for starter Jordan Montgomery, who had been a locker room staple for the Yankees. The surprising move made fans even more anxious as Bedar arrived in a walking boot and Montgomery had quick success in St. Louis.
But once he finally made his Yankees debut, Bedar’s defensive prowess became evident and his offense started to come at the right time for the Bombers. He had nine RBIs and batted .217 through the 14 games that he suited up for the Yanks.
He had been without a home run since joining New York up until Tuesday night. All of that has helped reassure Bader that he is living up to deal that the Yankees made to bring him here in the first place.
“Any time there’s a Major League Baseball game going on, I want to validate myself,” Bader said. “I want to play hard and I want to show my teammates and I want to show — my parents are in the stands. I want to show them all why I earned that uniform, there’s no doubt. … The reality of the situation is that I wasn’t ready to play; and if I was going to force playing, if I was chasing that exact emotion, you know, it would have been — it wouldn’t have been a version of myself that would have been effective for myself and for my teammates. Coping with that reality allowed me to just continue to work.”
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The Game 1 effort certainly seemed to reaffirm what the Yankees had already sensed initially. But there never seemed to be any doubt in the front office or manager Aaron Boone’s mind that he would make an impact.
“We also knew we were getting a really good player. Obviously big home run there to get it started tonight, coupled with obviously what he brings in the outfield,” Boone said.