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Waldman, living up to vow, sings anthem

@BryanHoch
July 31, 2020

NEW YORK -- Yankees radio announcer Suzyn Waldman sang the national anthem prior to Friday's home opener against the Red Sox in the Bronx, keeping a promise that she once made to Gerrit Cole. Speaking in the Yankee Stadium visiting clubhouse two years ago, when the right-hander was a member

NEW YORK -- Yankees radio announcer Suzyn Waldman sang the national anthem prior to Friday's home opener against the Red Sox in the Bronx, keeping a promise that she once made to Gerrit Cole.

Speaking in the Yankee Stadium visiting clubhouse two years ago, when the right-hander was a member of the Astros, Waldman told Cole that he would "make a great Yankee when you get to be a free agent."

Cole, who grew up as a Yankees fan in Southern California and was familiar with Waldman's previous career as a Broadway performer, replied: "If I do, you have to sing the national anthem on Opening Day."

"I thought that was never going to happen, because they do everything except shoot cannons off on Opening Day here," Waldman said on Friday. "But since they don't want to let anybody in the park, maybe I'm the only one left."

After agreeing to a nine-year, $324 million contract with the Yankees in December, Cole approached Waldman following the formal portion of his introductory news conference, telling her: "Don't you forget, you promised me!"

"I've always liked him," said Waldman, who first met Cole in 2012 when he was with the Pirates. "I told him the story about how I was in the room when he was on the conference call [after being drafted by the Yankees in 2008]. I turned to [director of amateur scouting] Damon Oppenheimer and said, 'He's not coming here. He's going to school.'

"They said, 'No, we can sign him.' I said, 'I'm telling you.' He didn't say the one thing you need that they all say eventually, which is that they can't wait to put on the uniform. He was wonderful, but I knew he was going to school. I just loved talking to him; he was great."

Waldman has performed the national anthem numerous times during her career, including prior to Game 6 of the 1986 American League Championship Series, but Friday marked her first time doing so at the current Yankee Stadium. It will was also her first time singing from the press level; her Tier 3 credential does not permit field access, which is limited to those with Tier 1 and Tier 2 access.

"I know I've never stood in an empty stadium and sung from the broadcast booth," Waldman said.

CC Sabathia tossed the ceremonial first pitch to Cole, and Haley Swindal -- a granddaughter of the late George M. and Joan Steinbrenner -- performed "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch.

"That's the furthest I've thrown a ball since that playoff game," said Sabathia, whose final appearance came in Game 4 of last year's American League Championship Series. "Obviously I'm not ready to throw off a mound yet, so it just reinforces my decision to retire."

The Yankees also honored local healthcare heroes who have been on the frontlines fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of both teams banged large metal pans, as New Yorkers did each evening during the crisis this spring, to recognize 10 healthcare industry workers from across the metropolitan area who were on hand for the game.

"It was great," said Dr. Paul Lee, a medical director at New York-Presbyterian Hospital who is also the Yankees' head team internist. "It reminds me of coming home, leaving the hospital at seven o'clock and hearing the city. It feels like unity; you feel like you have everybody supporting you."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.