The Yankees' Harrison Bader hits a sacrifice fly to score a...

The Yankees' Harrison Bader hits a sacrifice fly to score a run in the bottom of the first inning against the Tigers during a spring training game at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Monday in Tampa, Fla. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. — Everybody knows that Harrison Bader was the Yankees’ MVP last October when he channeled Babe Ruth and swatted five home runs in nine playoff games.

What people didn’t realize at the time? Bader had just switched to the bat of his good buddy and former University of Florida teammate Pete Alonso.

Not one of Alonso’s private stash, mind you. But the same Dove Tail model, the appropriately named PA20, which Alonso designed himself.

So how did the Polar Bear’s bat get into Bader’s hands for the centerfielder’s stunning display of October power? Consider it an educated guess on Bader’s part. Or maybe a serendipitous twist of fate.  

Because in looking to revive his season, which was derailed by a nagging case of plantar fasciitis, Bader looked around the house one day and reached for the Alonso model, only this was a signed version gifted to him by the Mets’ slugger back in 2021.

“I had a bunch of bats from guys,” Bader said Tuesday at the Yankees’ spring-training complex. “I just grabbed his bat and it felt really good, the handle, so I just ordered a bunch.”

More on that handle a little later. But before his revelation, Bader found himself in a tough spot coming over to the Yankees. He showed up in the Bronx after his Aug. 2 trade from the Cardinals and played in only the season’s final 14 games in pinstripes, batting .217 with zero homers (he had five total in 86 games, all with St. Louis).

Bader then switched things up for the playoffs, and the handle he mentioned — the Pro XR, biomechanically designed with the knob at a downward slant to better fit a hitter’s hand and wrist — seemed perfect the instant he picked up that autographed model. But Bader never took the bat for a test drive in the days leading up to the Yankees’ Division Series with the Guardians.

The shipment arrived during that final week, and Bader’s first swing with Alonso’s model — Bader's has slightly different weight and dimensions — didn’t come until BP before Game 1 at Yankee Stadium. In his first time up, against Cleveland starter Cal Quantrill, Bader drilled a 96-mph slider for a 406-foot homer, launching the Bronx into a frenzy. No one had any idea that Bader’s Game 1 blast was the only the beginning.

“If you feel good in your equipment, if you feel good with your bat, your batting gloves, anything, it’s going to give you confidence,” said Bader, who had a 1.262 OPS in the playoffs. “So yeah, I think it definitely helped, for sure.”

From there, Bader went on a “huge heater,” as Alonso described the feat Tuesday, smacking three homers during the Division Series and two more against the Astros in the ALCS. These were not fence-scrapers, either. Bader’s second home run off Quantrill, in Game 4, traveled 429 feet. He hammered a 411-foot shot off Houston’s Justin Verlander in the ALCS opener that banged off the train trestle at Minute Maid Park.

Bader’s homers reminded us of vintage Alonso, whose 146 homers since 2019 are the most in baseball over that span. But it’s not just about the bats with these two. They’ve maintained a friendship since college (Florida), and talk frequently, trading scouting reports. Alonso was thrilled to see his buddy rake in October.

“You bounce some ideas off each other,” Alonso told Newsday’s Tim Healey. “We exchange information, as well. It also is more like approach, tempo. When you’re going through something, it’s tough to have a big scope. But when you have another set of eyes — Bader knows me and I know him — I can kind of give my two cents ... It’s one of those things where iron sharpens iron.”

In addition to Alonso’s input, Bader credited the Yankees with making him feel comfortable under what initially seemed like less-than-ideal circumstances after the trade, when Jordan Montgomery was taking off in St. Louis and he was grounded by that walking boot. That foundation helped launch Bader’s historic October, along with the PA20.

“It definitely speaks volumes to the type of characters the Yankees retain on their roster,” Bader said. “There’s no doubt. But at the same time, baseball is in my blood. I’ve been doing this my entire life. I know how to read my teammates and understand what works, what doesn’t work.”

Bader’s seamless transition to the Yankees is worth noting as the Bronxville native will be a free agent at the end of this season, the second of his two-year, $10.4 million deal. Though the clubhouse fit is always part of the equation, you have to wonder if the Gold Glove centerfielder has now added a power dimension to his game, based on what we witnessed in October.

He’s never hit more than 16 home runs in a season, reaching 12 twice, though manager Aaron Boone said this week Bader was “probably on a 100-homer pace in the playoffs.” Despite that Ruthian damage last October, Bader doesn’t view himself as a Bash Brother to Aaron Judge quite yet.

“I just think it comes down to swinging at good pitches, which is what I was doing in the playoffs,” Bader said. “You stay confident in what you’re trying to do, prepare accordingly, and I think you’re going to produce really good results. If you want to create a result, you don’t think about the result. You think about what produces that result.”

Bader used that mindset, along with the right piece of lumber from a friend, to become the next Mr. October.

“It’s taken a lot of time to develop that model,” Alonso said. “There’s a lot that goes into it ... I’m proud of it.”

And couldn’t be happier for his fellow Gator, too.

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