Harrison Bader on the Yankees and Returning to Westchester

Photos New York Yankees Partnership, All Rights Reserved

Westchester native Harrison Bader achieved MLB fame with the St. Louis Cardinals and now is back home as a New York Yankee.

Sometimes, childhood dreams not only come true but get even better. This is what happened to Bronxville native Harrison Bader* on August 22, 2022, when the team that brought him to Major League Baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals, traded him to the New York Yankees for pitcher Jordan Montgomery.

Of course, joining the ranks of the most storied and successful franchise in the history of American sports is more than a dream fulfilled. Yet for Bader, who says his favorite things about Bronxville are “the simple things, like walking around town, having coffee with my family, taking our dog on walks, and soaking up the relaxing energy,” the trade was still somewhat bittersweet.

“I had a lot of ties to St. Louis,” says Bader. “I spent a lot of time there, working towards winning a championship, but you can’t control being traded. But to be traded to a franchise that lets me compete in front of my friends and family, and has so much history and a winning championship culture, I’m so incredibly appreciative. It’s just an honor to put on those Yankee pinstripes every game.”

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Bader’s debut with the Cards, in July of 2017, was auspicious. Leading off the bottom of the ninth in a tie game against the Colorado Rockies, Bader lined a double down the left-field line, advanced to third base on a sacrifice bunt, then charged for home plate on a not-so-deep fly ball. The Rockies’ catcher couldn’t handle the throw cleanly, and Bader scored the winning run. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch would recognize his effort with the headline “Delightful Debut.”

That game launched a career that would see Bader named both National League Player of the Week and win a Gold Glove as the best centerfielder in the National League that season.

Bader
Harrison Bader

Bader’s journey from the Little Leagues in Bronxville to the MLB took shape at Horace Mann High School in the Bronx, where he played for White Plains resident Neil Berniker, who spent 57 years at the school and still carries fond memories of having coached the Yanks’ No. 22.

“Even in middle school, it was baseball 24/7 for Harrison,” says Berniker. “He lived for the game. He was a special athlete… worked very hard, was always there for practice, showed up early, stayed later, and expected his teammates to give the same effort as he did, using his own example to push others to be better.

“He was always a student of baseball and its strategy,” Berniker continues, “but as he grew older, his talent really developed. He had speed, was an outstanding outfielder, and became a power hitter. His senior year, he batted close to .500, one of the best, if not the best, average in the Ivy Prep League.”

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Bader’s achievements at Horace Mann earned him a scholarship to the University of Florida. He was later selected in the third round of the 2015 draft and given a $400,000 bonus to sign with the Cards.

There’s an old saying: “Will it play in Peoria?” And Bader did, beginning his career in that Illinois city in 2015 and climbing the ranks of the Cardinals’ Minor League system, advancing to State College, PA, and Springfield, MO, before arriving at St. Louis’ top Minor League team, the Memphis Redbirds (what else?) in 2017.

The next three years were good but not outstanding: He finished sixth in voting for Rookie of the Year in 2018 and established himself as the Cardinals’ starting centerfielder. But even the most enthusiastic Cards’ fan would admit his accomplishments in the field were not matched at the plate.

Bader would establish his worth, though, when St. Louis faced its toughest challenge, during a four-game series in Milwaukee against the Brewers, the best team in the division at the time. The fact that the Cardinals won all four games is secondary to what happened in the third inning of the third game of that series. Bader was on second base, and teammate Edmundo Sosa was on third. Second baseman Tommy Edman launched a long fly ball deep into the outfield. It was caught against the wall by Milwaukee’s Lorenzo Cain, who himself had won the Gold Glove as the National League’s best centerfielder in 2019. Sosa was able to trot home easily from third base, which the Brewers expected.

But nobody thought Bader would be running right behind him, not stopping at third base, as most runners would have done, but instead charging to home plate. With long, blond hair waving as his cap flew off, Bader slid headfirst into home plate, scoring from second base on a sacrifice fly. A triple turn in the air by Baryshnikov couldn’t have been more impressive.

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After winning all four games against the Brewers, the Cardinals traveled down to Chicago for four games against the Cubs, now a shell of the team that had won the 2016 World Series. The Cardinals took all four games, and Bader had probably the best series of his career, batting .537 for the week and being named the National League Player of the Week, a fitting prelude to winning the Gold Glove.

It was clear that he was as much a fan of St. Louis as the city was of him. Soon after the baseball season ended, Bader wrote in The Players’ Tribune: “If you’re a ballplayer, there’s simply nothing like pulling on that Cardinals jersey and going out and doing something special for the people of St. Louis.”

He reaffirmed his commitment to the St. Louis area by volunteering as a physical education teacher for a day at Meramec Elementary School in Clayton, MO, which didn’t surprise Wendy Reiter, his middle school advisor at Horace Mann. “My total memory of Harrison is that he was super-friendly — and most importantly, kind,” Reiter says. “I like to think he has fond memories of our times together and the growth and independence he achieved while in middle school.”

After being traded to the Yankees in August 2022, Bader played 14 games with the Yankees, batting just .217, with no home runs. Clearly, he did not set the Bronx on fire — until the playoffs, that is.

Bader
Harrison Bader

Bader managed 10 hits in 30 at bats against both the Cleveland Guardians and the Houston Astros, including five home runs — as many as he’d hit in 246 at bats during the regular season. The Yankees didn’t make the World Series, but it surely wasn’t Bader’s fault.

“To be traded to a franchise that lets me compete in front of my friends and family, and has so much history and a winning championship culture, I’m so incredibly appreciative.”

For the 2023 season, because of stints on the injured list, Bader’s numbers (.259 AVG., 26 RS, 7 HR, 32 RBI in 185 AB as of press time) haven’t been what was expected; though, when he has played, his defensive prowess and timely hitting have aided the Yanks to be in the hunt for at least a Wild Card spot.

As he settled into Yankee Stadium, Harrison Bader has proved author Thomas Wolfe wrong: You can go home again. “I couldn’t be happier to be welcomed into a new clubhouse that was excited to have me and has all gears going for a championship,” Bader says.

*On August 31, Bader was claimed on waivers from the Yankees by the Cincinnati Reds.

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