Harrison Bader found most of his favorite meals and side dishes through baseball.
Pollo guisado, a flavorful braised chicken stew, holds the highest spot on his palate. He also appreciates arroz moro — a seasoned rice with beans — and sweet plantains, also often known as maduros, dishes which are popular throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.
“The spices are only really good, especially after long days of baseball,” Bader, the Yankees’ center fielder, explained. “You simply load it back up.”
Bader, 28, was introduced to those dishes during his teenage years on the diamond. His travel club, the Latest York Grays, boasted rosters primarily made up of players from Dominican and Puerto Rican families, and players’ moms and grandmothers would cook and prepare staples of their cultures at home and even within the backs of their cars so the youngsters could feast after games.
Bader, who’s white, said he quickly “fell in love” with the food and the perks of being on a travel team. With Bader having grown up in a wealthy community that was almost entirely white, the tight-knit group of families that he got to know during his adolescence with the Grays introduced him to a broader section of Latest York City, changing how he viewed his surroundings.
It also led to many lifelong relationships, with Bader still close with quite a few teammates from those days. Those bonds helped result in an awesome show of support at Game 1 of the Yankees’ division series against Cleveland on Tuesday, with Bader estimating he had greater than 100 family and friends in attendance.
“The entire atmosphere was something that was just very — I don’t know if healthful is the suitable word — but it surely was a real team,” Bader said of the Grays. “It was an effort greater than just the players on the sector.”
Bader grew up in Bronxville, N.Y., a Westchester County village. His father was Verizon’s lead legal counsel and his mother worked in marketing for Time Life publications. He attended Horace Mann School, a non-public institution that encompasses grades from the nursery level during highschool within the Bronx.
While in a Latest York City borough, Horace Mann didn’t exactly provide the identical lived experiences that lots of Bader’s teammates had. The Grays’ mission statement notes that the team is “primarily” made up of “children from the ‘inner city’ of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan, although a few of our children come from more affluent environments.”
Bader made for an obvious exception, but he joined the team the summer before his junior yr on the urging of David Owens, who coached Bader at Horace Mann and founded the Grays program.
“These guys loved baseball, and nothing else really type of mattered,” said Owens, who’s from the Upper West Side. “So for those who’re coming from wherever you’re coming to play with us, you’re family instantly. He slot in pretty quickly with everybody. They accepted him. He accepted being probably out of his comfort zone for the primary time.”
With road trips up and down the East Coast and games nearly each day through the summer, the group had loads of time to bond. Bader and company imagined what it could be wish to play for the Yankees at some point, and the Grays helped him expand his Spanish vocabulary. “I actually only know curse words,” Bader admitted, but that was enough for the Grays to see him as certainly one of their very own.
“We at all times say Harrison is Dominican, too,” joked Kevin Martir, a Grays teammate who now happens to be the hitting coach for the Yankees’ Class A affiliate, the Tampa Tarpons.
“He’s played on all of the bad fields. He went to practice within the gym. He did all that stuff with us,” Martir, who’s from Brooklyn and Dominican, added. “Yeah, he’s from Bronxville, he went to Horace Mann, but he grinded it out with us.”
Bader and his Grays teammates, a bunch that also included the Kansas City Royals right-handed reliever Jose Cuas, became so close that the players still have a bunch chat. The contingent becomes particularly lively during Bader’s plate appearances and was excited when the Yankees acquired Bader across the trading deadline in a deal that sent the left-handed pitcher Jordan Montgomery to the St. Louis Cardinals.
On Tuesday, Martir was in Yankee Stadium for Bader’s biggest at-bat in pinstripes to date. Bader hit his first home run along with his latest team, a third-inning solo shot that began the scoring for the Yankees.
The Yankees ended up beating the Guardians, 4-1.
Owens desired to bring his 2-year-old — Bader’s godson — by for batting practice, but ultimately didn’t make it. Still, Bader said family and friends packed the stadium in huge numbers.
“I feel badly. My parents and my sister are here, all my friends are here, but I didn’t reply to any of their text messages because we had stuff to do today,” Bader, who attended Yankees playoff games through the team’s 2009 championship run, said before echoing a lesson he first learned with the Grays. “This isn’t nearly the person who gets to place the uniform on. There’s a large team behind us that supports us each day. When you may have that behind you, it makes it quite a bit easier to go on the market and play some ball.”
There isn’t a doubt that Bader’s time with the Grays prepared him for school on the University of Florida and, ultimately, major league life.
He took to the cages relentlessly as a teen — “He would hit eight days per week,” Owens quipped — and practices in tiny gymnasiums with glass windows, lights and low ceilings taught Bader to pinpoint his throws.
However the Grays also gave Bader a taste of the variety that occupies an expert locker room. Owens, whose father is Black and mother is white, began making that time as Bader grew stronger and displayed signs of big-league potential.
“In the long term, that is going to be good for you,” Owens remembers telling Bader, “because for those who ever change into a professional, the primary day you step within the clubhouse, half the blokes are going to be from the Dominican Republic.”
Looking back now, Owens believes that the Grays positively influenced Bader’s worldview.
“There are a number of moving parts on this city. There’s a number of diversity on this city,” Owens said. “You’re taking all this in, and also you construct your outlook on the world. It’s a sophisticated look now. You’re not just a few isolated bubble up in Bronxville Little League and it’s homogeneous. Now you’re coping with the actual world, individuals who didn’t grow up together with your privileges — let’s call it what it’s — but guess what? When it comes right down to it, you guys are teammates, after which nothing else matters. You place on a Grays uniform, or every other uniform, you guys are brothers in arms, and it type of makes every thing else mean less.”
Bader knows exactly what his friend and former coach means. All these years later, he’s thankful that the Grays embraced him and gave him a likelihood to enterprise beyond his suburban roots.
He said that this system “definitely” modified his perception of what it means to be a Latest Yorker.
“I mean, it’s a distinct world deep in Brooklyn, deep in Queens. I went to non-public school at Horace Mann, so it’s just different,” Bader said. “Being exposed to other facets of Latest York City, different foods, different friends, it was just awesome.
“I loved every second of it.”