By Zakkary Brog

When Trevor Bauer was a child, he watched larger-than-life stars on the field at Dodger Stadium.

Now he’s one of them.

The Los Angeles Dodgers officially introduced the new pitching signee during a Feb. 11 press conference.

Acquired via free agency, Bauer signed for $102 million over three years. He can exercise options in 2022 or 2023, if he so chooses.

Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said his goal, heading into the off season, was to sign Bauer, even with the team’s starting pitching rotation coming off a World Series victory.

“From our standpoint, to add a player of his caliber to the existing roster was something that, when the offseason started, was very much on our mind,” Friedman said. “We weren’t quite sure how realistic it would be. So, to be sitting here today with the culmination of a lot of work from a lot of people, to be in this position is extremely exciting.”

Bauer had a career year in 2020. In the shortened season, Bauer pitched in 11 games for the Cincinnati Reds, finishing with a National League-best 1.73 ERA with 100 strikeouts. For his performance, he was crowned last season’s National League Cy Young award winner.

After becoming an unrestricted free agent, Bauer’s priority was finding what he called a “partnership.”

“It was all about the organization,” Bauer said. “The talent level that’s here, the organizational structure, the systems that are in place, the people who are here. … A lot of people have told me, ‘If you can play for the Dodgers, you should.’”

It is also a sort of homecoming for Bauer. He was raised in Santa Clarita.

“It was hard to imagine myself in a Dodger jersey, because sitting in the stands, you look out there and the players on the field, they’re superstars,” he said. “As a kid, you look out there and you’re like, ‘If I could ever be even close to that, that’d be awesome. I wonder what the lifestyle is like. I wonder what being on the field is like in front of 50,000 fans. I wonder what all that’s like.’ As a kid, they take on almost like an alien or a foreign kind of being, because it wasn’t a reality in my life at that point. And now being here, it’s a really surreal thing sitting on the field and looking out at the stands as opposed to sitting in the stands looking out on the field.”

Because of that childhood experience at Dodger Stadium, Bauer hopes to inspire a new generation of baseball fans now that the roles are reversed.

“One of the things that I’m most passionate about is trying to provide that same type of inspiration, that same type of, I guess, ‘wide-eyed wonder’ for the kids who are watching me play,” Bauer said. “So it inspires them to go out and play baseball and to love the game that’s given me so much both in my personal life, professional life, family life, all around.”

The Dodgers are scheduled to begin their World Series title defense when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Feb. 18, with the rest of the team following on Feb. 23. Their first regular season game is slated for April 1, when they’ll travel to Colorado to take on the Rockies.