Star right-hander Gerrit Cole elected against signing with the New York Yankees after they drafted him in 2008, opting to enroll at UCLA instead.
Eleven years later, Cole was fitted for pinstripes at an introductory news conference on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees announced the signing of Cole to a nine-year contract, extending through the 2028 season with a player opt-out after the 2024 campaign.
While the team did not announce financial terms, multiple reports have pegged it at a record-setting $324 million.
When asked why he chose the Yankees in free agency, Cole cited a childhood preference for his decision.
"Because it was my dream. I had a second opportunity to chase it, and it's the best organization in my opinion in the league," Cole said. "There's a process here that (general manager) Brian (Cashman) spoke to ... about trying to bring the best people at each individual position to surround everybody with the best opportunity to succeed."
Cole, 29, lost a close vote to his then-Houston Astros teammate Justin Verlander for the American League Cy Young Award this year. Cole went 20-5 with a career-best 2.50 ERA, but he was almost unhittable during the second half of the season. He finished 16-0 with a 1.78 ERA over his last 22 regular-season starts.
Cole also led the majors with 326 strikeouts, and he came in third in the AL with 212 1/3 innings pitched. In the postseason, he went 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA in helping the Astros reach the World Series.
"As the manager, when I hear when we're going to be in play for arguably the game's best pitcher, that's exciting," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "Let's be real about it. That gets your juices flowing."
Cole proudly wore a No. 45 Yankees jersey on Wednesday, a number that previously belonged to first baseman Luke Voit.
Voit, in turn, announced on Twitter that he will wear No. 59 in honor of his brother.
"I'm going to wear #59 to honor my brother! It was his college football number at West Point while he was the captain of the football team!" Voit wrote.
The Astros acquired Cole in January 2018 from the Pittsburgh Pirates for a four-player package that included right-hander Joe Musgrove, and Cole turned in two exceptional seasons for Houston. He finished a combined 35-10 with a 2.68 ERA in 65 starts as an Astro while earning the second and third All-Star selections of his career.
In five seasons with the Pirates to start his career, Cole went 59-42 with a 3.50 ERA.
To make room on the 40-man roster, the Yankees designated right-hander Chance Adams for assignment.
--Field Level Media