NY native Bader 'here to win' with childhood team

August 3rd, 2022

NEW YORK -- As Harrison Bader stood in the Yankees clubhouse on Wednesday morning addressing the local media, Matt Carpenter walked in and put his bags down at his locker before preparing for the series finale against the Mariners.

Bader had settled in at the next locker over, and as Carpenter went in to embrace the 28-year-old -- his friend and teammate with the Cardinals from 2017-21 -- he patted Bader’s head and declared that the Yankees’ new center fielder looked “very sharp.”

At 8 a.m. that morning, Bader had found himself at the barber shop, where his defining long locks were cut and wiped away in one fell swoop. He knew the deal, having been a last-minute Trade Deadline acquisition by the Yankees on Tuesday evening.

“I’m here to play baseball. I’m here to win. I know what this culture is about,” Bader said. “I was born, not right down the street, but in the backyard here, and I know what it’s about. … To be able to be a part of this history obviously means a lot.”

Bader was born and raised in Bronxville, N.Y., and grew up a lifelong Yankees fan, though he said he probably wouldn’t admit it if he hadn’t. As a child, Bader took in many games at the old Yankee Stadium with his family. His parents were even present at the storied Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series, when none other than his future manager Aaron Boone hit the 11th-inning walk-off home run that sent the Yankees to the World Series. When Bader told Boone about that, the skipper joked: “What home run?”

Bader’s favorite memory of Yankees baseball, however, came courtesy of Derek Jeter in another game against the Red Sox the next year. With the two rivals tied in the bottom of the 12th, Jeter tracked a foul ball along the third-base line and leaped three rows deep into the seats to corral it.

“That was pretty special,” Bader said of "The Dive."

Perhaps it’s no accident that a defensive play stuck out most prominently to Bader, the 2021 National League Gold Glove Award winner in center field and a six-year big leaguer who has been one of MLB’s most consistent highlight-generating machines.

“You cannot convince me otherwise that he’s the best defensive center fielder in baseball,” said Carpenter. “I’ve seen it for years, and I think Yankee fans are going to be amazed with the talent that he has in center field. I mean, it is very special. And I think for our particular group, he’s going to bring a lot. When he’s healthy, he’s going to be a force.”

Bader, who has been out since June 27 with plantar fasciitis in his right foot, was put in a protective walking boot a week ago after attempting to make a rehab appearance with the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate on July 22. He’ll remain in it for another week before reassessing with the medical team.

It’s a “nagging” injury that Bader said he has been dealing with all season. He tried different treatments and stretching regiments, but the doctors ultimately decided what he needed most was rest. (“It got to a point where I felt like I was progressing in the wrong direction,” he said.)

Still, Bader is “very confident” that he will suit up for the Yankees this season, agreeing with general manager Brian Cashman’s September timeline for his return.

“This is just a process, and one thing that Brian told me was to not rush it, which alleviates some pressure for sure,” Bader said. “This organization has done its homework. They know this isn’t a big deal. No one’s really concerned. I don’t think they’d make the move if they were overly concerned. So it’s just about being in the right hands and the proper care and coming back and being as effective as I’ve been in my career.”

The Yankees are already looking forward to what their outfield could look like with Bader in the mix.

“I think one of the hallmarks of our success this year is we went from not a great defensive team last year to one of the best this year, and we’ve even strengthened that,” Boone said. “So I feel great about getting him in here, and I look forward to him getting healthy and getting to be part of this.”

Bader is just as excited. He knows what being a part of this organization entails, what type of clubhouse he’s walking into, and even how many games the team has won this season. He’s ready for his opportunity to build on that legacy -- whenever it comes.

“I just couldn’t be more happy to be here,” Bader said. “What these guys have done over here, it’s just very impressive. And I like to think that they pick their guys pretty closely. … So I’m just focused on helping this team win games and winning a World Series, because it feels pretty close.”