GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Even with his third season with the Yankees in the books, Jonathan Holder still finds it surreal he calls New York home for eight months out of the year.
“(I) never dreamed that I’d be waking up every morning looking at the Empire State Building," Holder said with a smile. "But it’s a reality now. We’ve kind of taken to it and we enjoy it.”
The Gulfport native and Mississippi State product sat down with WLOX just weeks after the Yankees' playoff run came to a close, falling 3-1 to the eventual World Series champion Boston Red Sox in the ALDS.
“Losing is a part of the game and it’s still hard to swallow," Holder said. "But we know that with the talent that we have in the clubhouse, we could come back next year and hopefully aim for the stars again.”
Holder took another big step in his professional progression in 2018, joining New York’s Wild Card and ALCS rosters after being left behind the year before.
“It’s super exciting,” Holder said. “Being added to it kind of lets me know that (I was a big part), and I feel like I was. I was excited to get out there and try and help the team win.”
His playoff addition came after his strongest season in the majors to date, setting career bests in appearances (60), innings pitched (66.0) and ERA (3.14). Holder said he is starting to find his place in Major League Baseball.
“I learned a lot this year,” Holder said. “I had a lot of older guys in the bullpen that could really show me the ropes and lead me in the right direction. I feel like I learned a lot about myself as a pitcher this year, and it’s a good stepping stone going forward.”
Had the Yankees and Houston Astros advanced to the ALCS, we could have seen an all-South Mississippi pitching showdown between Holder and Moss Point product Tony Sipp.
Between those two, and numerous Coast products making their way up the Minor League ranks, Holder believes baseball in South Mississippi is as strong as ever.
“It’s a good time to be playing baseball as a kid on the Coast." the former Gulfport Admiral said. "I think the baseball around here is great. There are a ton of (local) guys in professional baseball and in college baseball that are succeeding, and I think it’s pretty exciting to watch.”
Holder said he tries to be a role model for those South Mississippi athletes aspiring to follow in his footsteps, as he gets ready to suit up for year four with one of the most historic franchises in Major League Baseball.
“Every once in a while I get on the mound and it’ll be a big situation, a big game. I’ll kind of take a deep breath and look around and I’ll realize how big it is and how special it is to be in the pinstripes that all the great baseball players wore," Holder said. "I’m very thankful and I’m blessed to be where I am for sure.”