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Signed, sealed, delivered

Winnisquam star Jordan Cote makes it official, signs with the New York Yankees

Newly-signed Jordan Cote smiles during the press conference to announce his signing last week in Concord. At right is Yankees scout Matt Hyde. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
August 22, 2011
CONCORD – Off to Tampa.

Since being drafted by the New York Yankees in the third round of the 2011 MLB Draft in June, Sanbornton's Jordan Cote waited patiently while his advisors and the Yankees brass came to a mutually acceptable financial agreement. After two months of waiting, and right before the signing deadline, Cote and friends made the announcement official last week, signing on the dotted line in a ceremony held at Concord Sports Center.

"It seemed like two years instead of two months," said Cote of the waiting game. "And I've probably slept about three hours in the last two nights. But there was really no debate at all as far as what I wanted to do. I wanted to play for the Yankees. My parents were supportive the whole time and now we can finally get my baseball career under way."

Cote called the coaching staff at Coastal Carolina the day before his signing to inform them he wouldn't be reporting to the Conway, S.C. school this fall. The 6-foot-5 right-hander had accepted a scholarship to play for the Chanticleers last year.

"I thought that was going to be a difficult phone call but the coaching staff was great about it and they were all for me signing with the Yankees," Cote explained.

The contract with the Yankees, which includes a hefty $725,000 signing bonus, will also pay for college when Cote's playing days are over.

"That was probably the biggest thing, paying for four years of school," he admitted.

In front of a packed house of friends, family and well-wishers in Concord, Cote was flanked by parents Scott and Anne, as well as Winnisquam Regional High School baseball coach Fred Caruso, personal pitching coach Matt Blake, Yankees scout Matt Hyde and Concord Sports Center general manager Bryan Caruso.

"Other than the day I got married, and the day this guy was born, this is the best day of my life," said Cote's dad Scott at the beginning of the press conference.

Caruso spoke of his four-year run at Winnisquam, with Cote leading the Bears to a state championship last year thanks to a no-hitter in the finals.

"I have a Jordan Cote file on my computer at home," Caruso explained. "And the thing is just overflowing. To say that we're proud of him is the understatement of the year."

Cote finished 31-2 in his career at Winnisquam, leading the team to three Final Fours in his tenure. Caruso also announced that his star pitcher's number 17 will be taken out of the rotation, and no player will wear the uniform again at Winnisquam.

"I've had umpires thank me for throwing him," said Caruso with a laugh. "And every time this kid pitched, he had a minimum of 10, maximum of 25 radar guns on his every pitch. You talk about pressure."

Hyde, who coached Cote during his breakthrough run in the Area Code Games last summer, and scouted him throughout the spring season for the Yankees, was supremely confident in his team's decision to draft the 18-year old with a third round pick.

"That comfort level that we developed was huge," Hyde said. "We did a very good job scouting him. We didn't go and see him pitch this spring until the end of April. A lot of teams went to see him early but we waited until the weather got a little better and he just got better as the season went along. His velocity was up and he was much more commanding when May and June rolled around."

Hyde explained that the Yankees philosophy with high school players, especially pitchers, is to ease them along. While college players often need to sign quickly following the draft, the importance isn't as high for players like Cote.

"We're definitely a little cautious with the younger guys," he said. "What we're really doing now is we're gearing him up for next year. He'll start with our Gulf Coast League team right away and we'll put him on a program. Then seeing how he's throwing, they'll determine how quickly he'll start to face live batters and go from there."

Cote's flight to the Yankees Florida home in Tampa Bay was to come the next morning, and he was expecting to be in a uniform almost immediately.

"It's so sudden because I've gone from fishing on the lake one minute to getting ready and now flying to Tampa and getting ready to start throwing the next minute," he said.

Now that he's in the system, Hyde has high hopes for the player he's scouted for the last year.

"Ability gets a player drafted and then makeup gets him to the majors," he explained. "But you look at the body, he looks the part. And the ball comes out of his hand easily. So then when you start to analyze it deeper, you start to realize that he's our type of player."

For Cote, who spent the hours before his signing shopping and packing for Florida, his last night in town was quite the experience. While his newly-purchased laptop might not have been ready in time for the plane ride ("What am I going to do during the flight?" he wondered), seeing so many familiar faces wishing him well was a humbling sight.

"The support I've received here and throughout the last few years has been amazing," he said. "Being from a small town, you appreciate things like that. Everyone came out and supported me here tonight and that's just overwhelming. It's much more than I expected."

Despite traveling to live in a new place far from the friendly confines N.H., Cote will still get to enjoy a piece of home in the Sunshine State. Fellow Granite Stater Joey Maher of Bedford was also drafted by the Yankees in the 38th round and signed just a day earlier than Cote. The two are expected to be roommates in Tampa.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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