Athletics Hall of Fame Inductee: Gerrit Cole '08

There may not be a sport that is more synonymous with the arrival of spring than baseball, as fans young and old take to the diamond or head to the ballpark to soak in America’s pastime.


That is exactly how Orange Lutheran alumnus Gerrit Cole ’08 fell in love with the game. A fan of baseball for as long as he can remember, and gifted with an arm that can hurl 100mph fastballs at major league hitters, the New York Yankees starting pitcher will be honored this summer as one of 11 inductees in the Orange Lutheran Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2023.


Growing up in Orange County, Cole began playing baseball at age five and was a catcher during his Little League years. After attending St. John’s Lutheran School in Orange, his parents chose Orange Lutheran for their son’s high school, drawn to the campus size and strong academics.


It was during his time at OLu that Cole found the path he would later turn into a professional career. A year of freshman ball led to a sophomore season that saw his arm strength increase dramatically. Shifting his focus to pitching, the right-hander then moved quickly up the ranks through JV and onto the varsity squad with a fastball that was already reaching the mid-90s and garnering national attention.


In Cole’s 2008 senior year, he pitched an 8-2 season with a 0.47 ERA and 121 strikeouts across 75 innings. OLu won the Trinity League title, and the accolades poured in for the Lancer standout, including being named Trinity League Pitcher of the Year, Orange Lutheran Male Athlete of the Year and a member of USA Today’s All-High School Team.


Aside from the victories and the championships, what Cole remembers most about his time as a Lancer is the people.


From carpooling to the field for practice and wondering whose mom was going to bring snacks that day to hanging out in the Hart Park parking lot with teammates such as Brandon Maurer ’08, Robby Vaughn ’09 and Chase Harrison ’10, it was the small moments that collectively made his high school experience a unique time as a student athlete.


Additionally, Cole shared the dugout with a coaching staff that served as influential role models for the young pitcher, including Craig Teuben, Ed Deese and Dan Thome.


And most of all, he had a ton of fun.


“That was my first introduction to…organized sports where there were multiple levels within the same organization outside of just age, and I had a blast,” said Cole. “It was the first little bit of freedom I had in my life, playing my favorite sport surrounded by great people.”


Outside of athletics, Cole recalls OLu’s commitment to the arts, including top-level ceramics and art studio equipment, along with a world-class performing arts facility in the Nechita Center, that provided him a campus experience like no other.


“Wonderful teachers, wonderful facilities, and it's only gotten better,” said Cole. “Those things were where I spent a lot of my time, and I made a lot of friends and learned a lot of things that that I didn't necessarily expect to learn.”


After graduation, the then 17-year old was selected 28th overall by the New York Yankees in the 2008 Major League Baseball draft, but Cole opted to go the college route, honoring his commitment to UCLA and furthering his education.


His decision paid off as Cole was selected first overall in the 2011 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. After making his major league debut on June 11, 2013, his professional career has taken him to the Houston Astros and back to the Yankees, his favorite team from his childhood.


Now three years into a record-setting nine-year $324 million contract with the Bronx Bombers, Cole has achieved a number of milestones while making his mark on the league, including becoming the second-fastest pitcher to record 300 strikeouts (198-1/3 innings, 2019) and setting the record for most consecutive strikeouts without issuing a walk (61, 2021).

gerrit-cole(Photo Credit: Eric Christian Smith/AP) 

Cole was also second in the American League Cy Young Award voting in 2019, is a two-time MLB strikeout leader (2019, 2022), played in the 2019 World Series with the Astros and is a five-time All Star and a two-time First Team All-MLB selection.


While he may be one of the most talented and successful pitchers currently in the sport, it is not lost on Cole that he plays a game for a living, the same game he fell in love with as a young boy. The road has not always been easy, and now as a father of two sons of his own that he shares with his wife Amy (Caden, 2-1/2 and Everett, 3 months), he knows it may be some time before he can fully grasp the blessing he’s been given.


“I'm so thankful that I've been able to make it through this and be in this position that I'm at now,” said Cole. “I try to make it as much about other people as I can, because I do my best to maintain this gift that God gave me. I think it's very obvious at this point that there was something greater at work that I had no control over, so I just try to do the best with it that I can and honor it.”


As he reflects back on how his time at Orange Lutheran prepared him for this path, Cole cites the discipline of OLu’s baseball program and the success he experienced under that structure that laid the foundation for him as an athlete.


And during a time period when the Lancers began to make significant strides in establishing OLu as force in both the Trinity League and Orange County high school sports, Cole considers it an honor to be inducted into the Orange Lutheran Athletics Hall of Fame alongside the many other athletes and teams that have contributed to building a legacy of academic and athletic excellence.


“Everybody in this (Hall of Fame) class really deserves a ton of credit, and I am thankful to be a part of it,” said Cole. “I'm thankful to represent Orange Lutheran every day. This is where I came from, and I try to do that justice in everything that I do – be a good representation of Christ and be a good representation of the school. I hold that in a very high standard, and to be recognized, it’s extremely fulfilling and humbling at the same time.”


The OLu Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony will take place on Saturday, June 24.  Tickets will go on sale in early May.  Check out past inductees of the Athletics Hall of Fame. 

Topics from this blog: Athletics Alumni Stories