Judge grew up in Linden, California, a no-stop-light agricultural town 100 miles inland from San Francisco. He had an older brother; and parents who were teachers. In Linden, Aaron could go weeks without encountering a stranger.
By the time he enrolled at Fresno State, he was a star outfielder who drew stares every time he entered a room. There is nowhere for a 6' 7," 282 pound man to hide. He is used to the feeling of eyes on him.
Judge is the biggest position player, by body mass, in MLB history. (Stephanie Apstein - Sports Illustrated - 5/10/2017)
Aaron was always the biggest kid in his class while growing up. And his first love was basketball. There was a time when he considered football, too. As a senior at Linden High, Judge set school records for single-season receiving yards, single-season touchdowns and career touchdowns as a wide receiver.
"My dad really excelled at basketball and when I was growing up, I wanted to be an NBA basketball player,” Aaron said. “But as I started growing up, I fell more in love with baseball and that became my true love.
"The Lord has really blessed me," Judge said.
In 2010, Judge was the A's 31st-round draft pick, out of high school. But he chose a baseball scholarship to Fresno State. Both of his parents are alums and they are both teachers.
Scouts really began to take note of Judge when he ranked as the top prospect in the summer Alaska League following his freshman season at Fresno State.
As a sophomore, he hit two homers in one game off Stanford's Mark Appel (who would become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft), won the TD Ameritrade College Home Run Derby and starred in the Cape Cod League the summer of 2012.
Aaron enjoys playing video games, basketball and working out.
Judge's combination of size and athleticism is so unusual for a baseball player that the comparison scouts make most is to NBA star Blake Griffin.
Troy Afenir was a first-year area scout for the Yankees back in the spring of 2013. Afenir sold Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer on using the 32nd overall pick on Judge. The Yankees acquired that draft pick as compensation for the Indians signing free agent Nick Swisher.
Afenir himself had been a first-round pick in 1983. The Astros drafted him as a catcher out of Palomar (Calif.) JC in the secondary phase of the old January draft.
Now, the records will show that Judge led Fresno State in home runs in 2013, when he went deep 12 times. While that total wasn’t exceptionally high, it was three times as many as any other Bulldog. And that team also included future big leaguers Jordan Luplow, Taylor Ward and Austin Wynns.
Judge homered four times as a sophomore, which is why scouts, in general, didn’t go overboard for him.
So while Judge didn’t light up scorecards with home runs as a college junior, Afenir knew what he saw. And he didn’t back down when it came time to make a recommendation.
“Troy was a first-year scout, but he had that tough, old-school philosophy,” Oppenheimer said. “He liked what he saw in Judge. Other guys would say he struck out a lot. They’d say he didn’t hit enough home runs. Troy talked about his toughness, about the swing and the strength.”
And Afenir had an ally. Chad Bohling, the Yankees’ mental conditioning coach, was a believer.
“He said (Judge) was one of the better guys, very mature,” Oppenheimer said.
Oppenheimer became a believer.
“He never had huge home runs numbers in the Cape (Cod League) or at Fresno State, and his batting practice wasn’t something where you would say, ‘My god,’” Oppenheimer said.
What’s more, Judge never hit more than 20 homers in a minor league season, while never slugging higher than .489.
“He was more of a line-drive hitter. He’d hit the ball the opposite way,” Oppenheimer said. “But he’d hit the ball hard.
“You could see his potential.”
And that potential has morphed into results.
“He’s a guy who figured out his body, and his swing,” Oppenheimer said. “I don’t think there is one particular person who can put a stamp on (his development). It’s totally about his ability to adapt. It’s about his work ethic. He had ability to focus and make adjustments.”
It might be a surprise to some, but not Afenir.
“I believe he is a guy like Dave Winfield,” Afenir said. “He has the same stature. He has the same line-drive approach. He strikes out, but he also walks a lot. So he is selective.” (Tracy Ringolsby - Baseball America - June, 2019)
In 2013, the Yankees drafted Judge (see Transactions below).
The Yankees got Judge as the first-round pick they had received as compensation for the loss of free agent Nick Swisher to the Indians.
This is a franchise that sacrificed both its first-round and second-round selections in 2005, 2006, and 2009. (In 2009, the Angels picked Mike Trout with what would have been the Yankees’ pick.) They also lost first-round selections in 2011 (for signing Rafael Soriano) and 2014 (Jacoby Ellsbury).
In 2014, Baseball America rated Judge as the 6th-best prospect in the Yankee organization. He was rated #3 in the spring of 2016 and #6 in 2017.
Spring 2014: "The impression of Aaron Judge is he is a tremendous ceiling," said Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer. "He's an athlete, he's playing in the middle of the field right now, he has huge power, he has tremendous work ethic, and he's shown us the potential for all five tools to be pluses."
In 2015, Judge was selected to represent the Yankees in the All-Star Futures Game. Aaron has a good chance to become the best position prospect the Yankees have developed since Brett Gardner in 2005. He is the No. 1 prospect in the Yankees Top 30 Prospects list. (October 2015)
Aaron has a good head on his shoulders, and a guy who teammates want to hang out with off the field. And his work habits are off the charts. He is a real professional. His composure is impressive.
Reggie Jackson provided some comparisons for Judge, offering the names of Dave Winfield, Willie McCovey, and Willie Stargell. To GM Brian Cashman, there is nothing wrong with dreaming big.
Jackson told ESPN that he sees Judge as "the next great Yankee," comparing Judge's athleticism to Winfield, while flipping a few more Cooperstown analogies to describe Judge's presence at the plate.
"He's got power like Stargell, McCovey," Jackson said. "Opposite-field power, which is the best power you can have. That allows you to wait on the ball. He has power like a guy from the 1960s and 1970s."
Jackson has not been alone in offering gushing praise for Judge, who has also drawn comparisons to Marlin Giancarlo Stanton. Cashman said that there is little he can do to temper expectations for Judge. (Hoch - mlb.com - 3/11/15)
Aaron was asked who his favorite player was, while growing up? "My dad talked about Dave Winfield. He was a bigger guy like I was, three-sport star. They said I would be big like him. I always followed him and looked at old videos, and just the way he held himself on and off the field, he was a class act. And living in California, I watched the Giants a lot, so guys like Jeff Kent, Barry Bonds, Rich Aurilia—they were some of my favorites to watch," Judge said.
"During the game, gum. I have a big thing with gum. If I'm chewing a piece of gum and I go up and get a hit, I keep the gum. But if I get out, I gotta throw it away. That's one I've got," Judge said.
How about something fans don't know: " I'm starting to learn how to play the piano. I just got a piano at my parents' house and I've been learning how to play in the offseason. Maybe in a couple years I'll be good," Aaron said.
MLB debut (August 13, 2016): Judge was just the second Yankee to homer in back-to-back games to start his career, joining Joe Lefebvre, who achieved the feat May 22-23, 1980.
Judge and Tyler Austin became the first pair of teammates to hit their first career home runs in their debut games and just the fourth and fifth Yankees to hit home runs in their first plate appearance or at-bat.
February 2017: Judge sat down for a question-and-answer with Record Editor Mike Klocke.
Record: Take us back to that Friday night in August 2016. You'd just finished a Triple-A game in Rochester, New York, and were with your parents (longtime San Joaquin County educators Wayne and Patty Judge) at a restaurant when your manager told you that you were being called up to the majors. What went through your mind?
Judge: There were a lot of emotions. I was a bit confused when I got the news. We were at probably the only restaurant open that late at night in Rochester. It was so shocking. Then we had to get in the car and drive five hours to New York (for the Yankees' day game on Saturday against Tampa). I just sat in the back seat. The time flew by as we drove to New York.
Record: You arrived for some pageantry. The Yankees were honoring their 1996 World Champions that day, so that meant Derek Jeter, Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte and others. That's not a typical atmosphere for a Major League debut.
Judge: After I got there I was so busy. I had to sign a contract, get my locker, and handle some other details. They brought Tyler Austin up for his debut that day, so we were both going through it. The moment when we walked through the tunnel and emerged onto the field was amazing. Yankee Stadium. And then all of those legendary Yankees were there being honored.
Record: In your very first game, you had to make a defensive play in the top of the first inning.
Judge: Yeah, we got two quick outs and I thought to myself, "That's good, I'll get out of the first inning without making a play." But then Longoria hit a slicing drive to deep right. I went back on the warning track and caught it and then bumped into the wall. It made me feel like, "yeah, I'm in the game."
Record: Then you're on deck when Tyler Austin comes up to bat. His first in the Majors. He goes opposite field for a home run.
Judge: It was a great moment. Tyler fouled off some tough pitches and then got one out to right field. The fans went wild. He's a good friend, and I felt great to see him rounding the bases. But then I had to snap out of it. I was up to bat next. It was strange, but once I got into the batter's box I was no longer nervous. I just wanted to make contact and get that first Major League at-bat done. (Tampa pitcher Matt Andriese) threw me something off-speed, maybe a change-up. I figured, "OK, I made contact and got a fly ball." But it just kept carrying until it went out. I was running hard to first base, but then I almost tripped over second base
Record: I would imagine there's quite a difference between growing up in Linden, CA and then living in New York City. What was it like for you?
Judge: It's amazing, and I tried to take advantage of experiencing all I could in the city. I asked one of the clubbies the best way to get to know New York and he told me, "Just go out and explore and experience it by yourself." I did that a lot. The city is so diverse that you can blend in with the crowds.
Record: You served as the Yankees' clubhouse dee-jay. You livened things up a bit with your music.
Judge: We always played music in the clubhouse when I was in the minors. They didn't have any music in New York. It was very quiet. We played a song after one of the games. Then it just kind of took off and I started playing some more music after our wins.
Judge walks quietly near his locker, has a smile on his face, and greets everyone with a hello. At the same time, Judge seems reluctant to talk about himself. His numbers prove there is nothing to be shy about. These days, Judge is the straw that stirs the drink.
When he was asked about his success on the field, Judge gave all the credit to his teammates. "[I'm successful because] it's the team that I'm on," Judge said. "I'm surrounded by good players, a mix of veteran guys, we have a good mix of young talented players. For me, I'm just in the perfect position right now. [Almost] every single time I'm at the plate, I've had guys on base. We have a lot of guys in the lineup that make things happen."
There are people in the Yankees' organization who are willing to sing Judge's praises. Take manager Joe Girardi: Judge hasn't been in the league a full season, and his skipper is already comparing his star player with Yankees legend Derek Jeter.
"He's a little bit like Derek, to me," Girardi said of Judge. "He's got a smile all the time. He loves to play the game. You always think that he's going to do the right thing on the field and off the field when you look at him. He's got a presence about him. He plays the game to win all the time. That's the most important thing. It's not about what you did that day.
"I understand that's a big comparison, but I remember Derek when he was young. He grew into that leadership role, but that was Derek. Derek loved to have fun, loved to laugh and loved to play the game. Always had a smile on his face and was energetic, and that's what I see from this kid. I see him doing things the right way on the field and off the field, and that's the way Derek was as well when he was young." (Ladson - mlb.com - 5/1/17)
Teammate Didi Gregorius noticed a difference in Judge's approach at the plate in 2017. It's rare that Judge is swinging at pitcher's pitches.
"He means a lot to the team and everybody can see what he can do. He's got to keep that up. Just keep it simple like he has. He is a big part of the team," Gregorius said. "He is laying off all the nasty pitches. That's the main thing that's going on. He is more selective and he puts his 120-mph swing on the ball."
One thing is certain: Judge doesn't feel the pressure of playing in New York. Nothing seems to faze him. He credits the Yankees' organization for preparing him for the big city.
"The New York Yankees' organization—they train us well from the get-go," Judge said. "They tell us how to handle everything. This is the biggest media market. A lot of people love to watch the Yankees. They just prepared us well for the situation. When we come up here, it's like second nature. Nothing is a surprise to us.
"I love the city of New York. It's kind of fun. I grew up in the country, so I'm getting a little change of pace. The city has been great. Playing in front of these fans has been amazing. They are always yelling. They are always screaming. They are always on their feet. They have a lot of good energy that we can feed off of." (Ladson - mlb.com - 5/1/17)
Aaron's power was on display in April and May 2017. But don't let the big power distract you from the small means by which he has become the most valuable player on the surprisingly unstoppable Yankees.
Judge is a player whose ceiling had seemed somewhat limited (ironically) by his tall body, ample strike zone and huge strikeout rate. But in his small big league sample last season, he has had as large an individual impact as any player in the Majors in the first month of action. And though Statcast tells us he has had nine batted balls with an exit velocity of 115 mph, while the rest of MLB has just 16 combined, his Major League-leading 2.5 Wins Above Replacement mark, per Baseball Reference, isn't based on dinger distance.
No, Judge has been brilliant on both sides of the ball, to say nothing of the immeasurables that have led Yankee personnel and pundits to throw out Derek Jeter comps. "Very, very poised individual," Yankees bench coach Rob Thomson said. "We saw it last year when he was striking out in close to half his at-bats. He walked into the clubhouse with his chest out and chin up every day. You really get a feel for people when they're not playing well."
Judge had a .179/.263/.345 slash line in his first 95 plate appearances in the bigs, striking out 44.2 percent of the time. This was nowhere near as serious an issue, but he also had negative defensive metrics (-1 defensive runs saved) in 216 innings in right field.
All that time, Judge wasn't fretting his early foibles but learning from them. "I'm not afraid to fail," Judge said. "You can't have all the good without the bad. That's how sports work and how life works."
Example: When Judge got to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2015, the Yanks' coaches talked to him about implementing some mechanical changes to improve his timing. But they wanted to wait until the offseason to address them because they didn't want to affect his rhythm in what was, at the time, a strong offensive season.
"I told them, 'Hey guys, I'd rather work on it now than in the offseason,'" Judge said. "'Let me struggle now so I can come into '16 and do better.' It's constant growth." Judge's growth in 2017 is in his drastic minimization of his chase rate (from 33.6 percent to 24.2 percent, per FanGraphs) and improvement of his contact rate (from 60.2 to 70.5).
A scout who saw Judge regularly in Double-A and Triple-A admitted he's shocked at how quickly Judge has made this adjustment. But when told Judge has been worth six defensive runs saved (the most of any right fielder and the most of any outfielder not named Kevin Kiermaier), he was less surprised.
"This guy's an athlete," the scout said. "He's not just a big guy, he's an athlete—a coordinated athlete that gets decent jumps on the ball." Dedication is what will allow this early-season star to stick. (Castrovince - mlb.com - 5/10/17)
When Aaron goes back to his family's home in Linden, Calif., he jokes that he should make time to doublecheck the closet in his parents' bedroom, surprised that a Superwoman cape hasn't surfaced at some point over the past 25 years.
While Judge possesses a hulking build that appears to have been stripped from the pages of a comic book, his mother, Patty, represents the true strength behind the slugger. Judge said that his mom has influenced every decision that he has ever made, describing her as an incredibly caring individual.
"I know I wouldn't be a New York Yankee if it wasn't for my mom," Judge said. "The guidance she gave me as a kid growing up, knowing the difference from right and wrong, how to treat people, and how to go the extra mile and put in extra work, all that kind of stuff. She's molded me into the person that I am today."
On a recent afternoon—hours before he was in the lineup for a game at Yankee Stadium—Judge said that he had just hung up the phone with his mom, who had been doing some yard work.
On 2017 Mother's Day, Judge said that he plans to send his mother flowers and a card, then will call to tell her what he always does. "I'll just thank her again for everything she's done, and tell her again I know I wouldn't be in the position I am now if it wasn't for her love and guidance," Judge said. (Hoch – mlb.com – 5/12/17)
When Joe Girardi recently paid Judge a compliment of the highest pinstriped order, comparing his presence and personality to that of Derek Jeter, Judge said that he was honored, but that he was simply trying to be "the best Aaron Judge I can be." That mission started about 100 miles northeast of San Francisco, where Judge took his first cues from Patty and Wayne Judge, recently retired schoolteachers who ensured that education was a priority in their son's young life.
"It's helped me try to live to a higher standard," Judge said. "They wanted me to always make sure I put education first and make sure I prioritized everything. If I was going to make plans, stick to them. Make sure I'm on a tight schedule and make sure I don't miss anything."
Not that Judge was always so understanding, something that he laughs about now.
"I wanted to go outside and play with my friends or play some video games, but they were tough on me," Judge said. "They'd say, 'Hey, you've got homework to do. You've got to finish your math homework and science homework. Then if you have time left over before dinner, you can go play.' Something like that. I didn't like it as a kid, but looking back on it, I really appreciate what they did for me."
Judge was adopted by his parents, Patty and Wayne, the day after he was born in April 1992. He has an older brother, John, who has also become a teacher. Judge was in elementary school when he asked why he and his parents did not look alike.
"I think it was like, 'I don't look like you, Mom. I don't look like you, Dad. Like, what's going on here?'" Judge said. "They just kind of told me I was adopted. I was like, 'OK, that's fine with me.' You're still my mom, the only mom I know. You're still my dad, the only dad I know.
"Nothing really changed. I honestly can't even remember too much, because it wasn't that big of a deal. They just told me I was adopted, and I said, 'OK, can I go outside and play?'"
Judge said that he still speaks with his parents every day. (Hoch – mlb.com – 5/12/17)
Aaron stormed the baseball world in 2017. The large adult son/rookie was an absolute revelation. He'd blasted a Major League-leading 15 home runs by May 22, and had put to rest any questions about his penchant for striking out in the Minors. He's even shown off his 6-foot-7 frame in the outfield with a series of amazing catches.
It inspired some truly invested fans to show up in judges' robes and white wigs. Now, the Yankees have made it official. With faux wood paneling to resemble a courtroom's jury box, the team has officially marked three rows in section 104 as the "Judge's Chambers."
"It's pretty cool," Judge said. "When you come to a game, it's supposed to be fun for the players and the fans. I feel like it might be something that's fun for the fans out there."
As to whether he was asked about it beforehand: "They just brought it up to me and said 'Hey, this is what we're going to do.' They're going to put out a section and call it Judge's Chambers and give them little judge outfits and we'll see what happens. I think it turned out great."
Judge was also pretty surprised to already have a permanent spot in the stadium: "It's pretty unreal. I never would have thought so soon. But the fans like it, so I'm glad they're having fun."
Brett Gardner also appreciated the new attraction: "I think it's great. Obviously, the fans get excited about seeing him play on both sides of the ball. I might go up there early when I get to the field tomorrow before BP and check it out. I think it's a good addition."
While fans in the Judge's Chambers will get a good view of the rookie in right field, if you want to snag one of Judge's rulings (what we should be calling his home runs), your best bet is in left field—even if the slugger has managed to hit dingers to every part of the yard. (Clair & Hoch - mlb.com - 5/22/17)
Aaron spent the 2017 season living out of two suitcases in an Art Deco hotel in the heart of Times Square. Why hasn't he looked for an apartment yet?
"I don't want to put all my cards that I'm going to be in New York and then I go to Triple-A," Judge says. "Maybe next year, if everything goes well."
His lobby is one of the few places he can watch people, tourists who aren't watching him. He hears a different language seemingly every time he rides the elevator. This place could not be less like teeny Linden, California, where Aaron grew up.
But his favorite part of the Times Square location, he explains eagerly, is that "if I want to get frozen yogurt at 12 o'clock at night, I can do it." (Stephanie Apstein - Sports Illustrated - 5/10/2017)
June 17, 2017: The homecoming weekend for Aaron Judge continued at the Coliseum.
Judge grew up in Linden, Calif., which is about 75 miles east of Oakland. While fans from the area made it to the Coliseum for the two previous games, the largest contingent was on hand, with Judge requesting around 150 tickets. Two buses of people came to the game, and Judge said his entire church community was coming, too.
"It's great. I'm excited to see some family and friends," said Judge, who met with a contingent for 10 minutes before the game. "A lot of people supporting me and helping me along the way, and a lot of people are going to be at the games this weekend. I'm excited for that."
The A's selected Judge in the 31st round of the 2010 Draft, a few weeks after Judge came to the Coliseum to participate in a prospect workout. It was the first time Judge had ever hit in a Major League park, leaving an impression on the then 18-year-old.
"It's a big park. Getting a chance to hit on the field was pretty cool," Judge said. "The day flew by, to be honest. I was nervous. I was trying to put on a good show. But I enjoyed every minute of it, and it was the best field I had played on at the time."
And Aaron felt a little extra satisfaction in knocking one over the wall in the first Major League stadium he hit in.
"Yeah, it is," Judge said with a smile and a laugh. "It is." (A Simon - MLB.com - June 17, 2017)
Aaron couldn't help but smile at reporters when he answered questions about his chipped tooth, amused that it became a bigger story than the Yankees' walk-off win the night before.
"I tried to rush off the field before anyone would notice," Judge said. "But there's a lot of cameras around."
Judge first clarified that he was fine after having dental work done on his front left tooth. The tooth chipped when Brett Gardner's helmet was knocked out of Judge's hand and into his face during the Yankees' walk-off celebration. It turns out, Judge took the blow, in part, because he was trying to prevent his teammates from getting hurt as they mobbed Gardner at home plate.
After the clubhouse closed to the media, a Yankees security guard was outside combing the area around home plate for Judge's tooth. The search was for naught, though, as nobody found it, Judge said.
Judge said he took one picture of his chipped-tooth mouth that night, but he said he'll "keep that for myself." (Martell - mlb.co - 7/28/17)
Aaron has racked up quite a few accolades during his remarkable 2017 season, from an All-Star selection to a Home Run Derby crown to his very own fan section. But despite that barrage of dingers, he was still missing out on one particular prize: his very own championship belt.
Luckily, Alexa Bliss, Braun Strowman and Big Cass of the WWE stopped by Yankee Stadium prior Tuesday's Mets-Yankees game to fix that. Judge was awarded the WWE championship belt!
Sure, the belt is generally reserved for World Series champions and Cy Young winners, but when you can hit a baseball off of a ballpark roof, they're willing to make an exception. (Landers - mlb.com - 8/16/17)
Aaron was asked what his occupation would be if he wasn't a baseball player.
"I'd be a teacher, just like my parents. I like helping people and teaching kids and teaching people. It seems pretty rewarding," Judge said.
Nick Swisher was a pretty productive presence in the Yankee lineup for the 4 years 2009-2012, with 105 homers, 134 doubles, an .850 OPS and countless utterances of "awesome" and "bro." Swisher's enthusiasm and output was, by and large, a very good thing for the Bronx Bombers.
But in a funny twist of fate, Swish's greatest contribution to the Yanks might end up being Aaron Judge himself. And it's their October 2017 ALDS opponent, the Indians, who unwittingly supported the "swap." Judge was taken out of Fresno State with the No. 32 overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft—a pick the Yankees had received as compensation when Swisher signed with the Tribe as a free agent before the 2013 season.
"Cashman showed some confidence in the scouting department and the process that we're involved in," said Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, "to let a Major League player with really high value leave, hoping we would turn it into something that had as much or more value."
Now, before you jump to conclusions, no, had the Indians not signed Swisher (or, for that matter, Michael Bourn, another free-agent foray that cost them a pick that winter), they still wouldn't have landed Judge, a viable 2017 AL MVP candidate and as obvious an AL Rookie of the Year choice as any in the history of the honor. The Indians didn't directly surrender No. 32. The pick they gave up was in the second round. So Judge likely would not have fallen to them, though they did like him.
"One of our scouts liked him over [No. 1 overall pick Mark] Appel, which is crazy to think about," Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. "It's not necessarily how we had him on our board, but one of our scouts felt strongly about it. There were some questions about his size, but he also did a lot of things really well, and he was renowned for having a great makeup."
Judge's 6-foot-7 frame in a game in which very few position players of that size have logged meaningful careers (Frank Howard, Richie Sexson and Tony Clark are the extent of the list) made him an unknown, even by baseball Draft standards.
"People have a hard time dealing with things outside the norm when it comes to scouting in baseball," Oppenheimer said. "That's why the Jose Altuves of the world and Judges of the world aren't always the consensus."
Judge wasn't even the Yankees' first choice in that general realm of selections in 2013. This is where the since-altered compensation system came into play. The Yankees' "real" pick in that Draft was at No. 26. They gained No. 32 because of the Swisher signing and No. 33 because reliever Rafael Soriano signed with the Nationals. This proliferation of picks made it easier for the Yanks to take the calculated gamble on Judge.
With No. 26, they went with the seemingly safer selection of Notre Dame third baseman Eric Jagielo (who would later become fodder in the trade with the Reds for Aroldis Chapman). Then they nervously watched and waited through five more picks (Phillip Ervin to the Reds, Rob Kaminsky to the Cardinals, Ryne Stanek to the Rays, Travis Demeritte to the Rangers and Jason Hursh to the Braves) before, finally, Judge was sitting there waiting for them at No. 32. They took left-hander Ian Clarkin, who was later utilized in the trade for David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Todd Frazier, with the following compensation pick for Soriano.
"It's always nice to have the opportunity of multiple picks," Oppenheimer said. "But I think our process of evaluation and the depth of the evaluation gave us the comfort level [to pick Judge]." Anthony Castrovince - MLB.com - 10/08/2017)
Judge is superstitious. It begins just moments before first pitch—with a superstition. Judge pops two pieces of Dubble Bubble sugar-free bubblegum in his mouth. Until he makes an out, he'll continue to chew it. If he picks up a hit in his first at-bat, it stays in. Another hit, and he keeps chewing. Another—.
"Hopefully, by the end of the night, I have a nasty, old, unflavored piece of gum in my mouth," Judge says.
Aaron started the tasteless tradition in college and he doesn't plan on changing it. His outs do have a sweet ending, because if he makes one, he throws away the old gum and takes two fresh pieces. If he goes 3-for-3 and the game has a four-hour pace, Judge will just keep gnawing on the old gum, with no thought of changing it out or adding a new piece.
"No, I keep it in there," Aaron says. "It is lucky."
Occasionally, Judge will switch it up if he's in a rut. He'll go with sunflower seeds, available next to the gum in the middle of the Bombers' dugout. (Andrew Marchand - ESPN.com - 10/08/2017)
Judge credits his parents, who adopted him as a baby, for giving him his first lessons on putting team above self. He says he's been blessed with coaches who have done the same. Judge is accommodating in talking to the media, but he almost blushes when speaking about himself. The top-step move could be seen as grandstanding, if Judge didn’t act the right way.
"It’s genuine," third baseman Chase Headley says. "He is not doing it to have somebody write about it or see it."
Oct 2017: Judge has the highest number in all of Major League Baseball, and this time we are talking about total sales of his No. 99 Yankees jersey. MLB and the MLB Players Association jointly announced the latest Most Popular Jerseys rankings, and the rookie slugger topped the list to add another distinction to an historic first full year. The list is based on sales of Majestic jerseys from MLBShop.com since Opening Day.
It marks the first time an outfielder has taken the honor, and only the second time a rookie has finished an MLB season with the most popular jersey. Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, whose jersey is the second-most popular of 2017, also had the top-seller of 2016 and 2015 (his rookie campaign). MLB and the MLBPA have released these rankings since 2010.
Judge set the rookie home run record in 2017, won the T-Mobile Home Run Derby, led American League All-Star voting, earned his own robed fan section at Yankee Stadium, and pushed the Yankees into the postseason as a bona fide AL MVP Award candidate.
His "ALL RISE" nickname, which he wore on his back for the inaugural Players Weekend in August, resulted in a fair number of those jersey sales. Judge joins Derek Jeter (six times) and Mariano Rivera (once) as Yankees who have topped a Most Popular Jerseys ranking. (M Newman - MLB.com - Oct 3, 2017)
In 2017, Judge won the AL Rookie of the Year Award. And he was the runner-up in the MVP award to Jose Altuve.
In 2017, Judge won the Sporting News AL Rookie of the Year award. Also the Baseball America and BBWAA 2017 Rookie of the Year.
Oct 24, 2017: The season ended too abruptly for Judge to provide an honest assessment of his personal performance, but CC Sabathia spoke for many when he called it "the best rookie season I've ever seen."
"I've never been around a group like this before," Judge said. "With the leadership we have in from veteran guys to the younger guys, it was fun coming to the ballpark every day. Whether we were down or up, we had fun every day." "We didn't win the World Series. You're not really satisfied," Judge said. "That's what you want. That's why you play and why you train in the offseason. It's all for the opportunity to win the World Series, and we came up short."
Judge finished the season with a .284/.422/.627 split line, impressive numbers that had been dented by a six-week slump following his victorious performance at the T-Mobile Home Run Derby in July. Judge said that he was able to learn a lot by watching the Yankees' veteran players prepare, naming Brett Gardner, Chase Headley, Matt Holliday and Sabathia in particular.
"Through injuries, ups and downs, this team always came to play every day," Judge said. "It's something that as a rookie seeing the veterans do that, I had a lot of fun playing with them. What a crew we had. We have a great team. We have a lot of guys coming back. We have a lot of guys in Minor Leagues waiting for their turn to come up here and do their thing. We're all excited for next year, 2018 and what it holds for us." (B Hoch - MLB.com - Oct 24, 2017)
He's been called the most famous Judge in baseball since Kennesaw Mountain Landis, the sport's first commissioner.
Aaron hails from Linden, California, a close-knit farming community of about 1,800 people some 40 miles southeast of Sacramento.
"There were no strangers in the town," Judge recalls of his upbringing. He was raised by adoptive parents, retired physical education teachers Wayne and Patty Judge. "I'm blessed," Aaron proudly says of his parents. "We're more blessed than he is," Patty Judge said.
Both of the Judge children are adopted. Aaron has an older brother, John, five years older, who is teaching English in Korea.
"We're real proud of him, too. Really, it was all meant to be," Patty says. (Aaron was adopted when he was two days old.) "I feel they kind of picked me—I feel that God was the one who put us together."
Aaron has never had contact with his biological parents.
"I'm fine with it," Judge says. "It really didn't bother me because they're the only parents I've ever known."
Judge was on the cover athlete for "MLB The Show 18." It is a popular Play Station game.
The following is an excerpt from Chapter 9 of Bryan Hoch's first book, "The Baby Bombers: The Inside Story of the Next Yankees Dynasty," which is being published by Diversion Books and includes a foreword by Mark Teixeira.
Feb 24, 2017: The concept of "The Judge's Chambers" was first floated in the spring of 2017, during a time in which team officials were brainstorming avenues to make Yankee Stadium more appealing to a younger generation of fans. Work had already begun in The Bronx to add children's play areas, terraces and party decks to the facility, which was readying for its ninth year of service. Noting the popular response that Aaron Judge had received during the exhibition games in Florida, the Yanks' decision-makers deemed a dedicated cheering section to be a logical next step.
Similar concepts had been successful in other ballparks, such as the Astros' "Keuchel's Korner" for ace Dallas Keuchel and the Mariners' "King Felix's Court" for standout pitcher Felix Hernandez. It may not have been groundbreaking, but it seemed that way for the Yankees, a team that often had to fight the temptation of simply leaning upon their storied history to sell tickets.
Though some would argue that there had never been a special section devoted to Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera, the willingness to innovate represented a refreshing change of pace. Judge told the Yankees that he thought the idea was "cool," but first, he had to actually make the team. It may seem difficult to believe in hindsight, given how sensational Judge's rookie season turned out to be, but there was legitimate consideration given to having Judge begin the season in the Minors. Because Judge still had Minor League options remaining and Aaron Hicks did not, the Yankees decided to carry Judge on the roster only if he won the starting right-field job, believing that a backup role would stunt his development.
"He never had a full year in the big leagues," general manager Brian Cashman said. "He had competition that was legitimate with Aaron Hicks. Hicks had performed just as well for a period of time, if not better, for the first half of the spring. It was a tight competition. I'd say halfway through camp, Hicks was winning by a hair."
Driven to convince management that he was ready for the opportunity, Judge said that he locked his focus on having quality at-bats for 30 days straight. The organization held daily meetings in the final weeks of camp, with Cashman, Tim Naehring and numerous other assistants disappearing into then-manager Joe Girardi's office. Judge ignored their lengthy chats, saying that he couldn't afford to waste time worrying about whether he would begin the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre or the Yankees.
"I wasn't getting paid enough to make that decision," Judge said. "I had one goal in my mind: to go out there and compete and do whatever I can to fight for a job. Every day, I was just taking that mindset, 'I've got to go out there and work my butt off to get this job.'"
At 10:07 a.m. on March 30, 2017, the heavy steel door to the manager's office swung open, indicating that a decision had been made. Someone joked that it reminded them of the clouds of smoke that rise over the Sistine Chapel to announce the selection of a new Pope. Girardi summoned the team's beat reporters and lauded both Hicks and Judge for making it a very tough call, but announced that Judge's late-spring surge had tipped the scales in his favor.
Hicks took a couple of days to stew over the decision, and though he was disappointed with the outcome, he acknowledged that the team had given him a fair shot. The job had been given to the man who had played the best.
"The last two or three weeks of camp, Hicks didn't necessarily lose it as much as Judge took it," Cashman said. "Those weren't false conversations. It was more like, 'You've got to win that everyday job, or you're going to Triple-A,' and Judge knew that. Aaron Hicks is an above-average right fielder in this game, but Judge has turned out to be an MVP candidate. It was real. I guess we made the right decision."
Judge, meanwhile, was elated. He responded by saying that "now the real work starts," adding that the challenge would be to ward off the competition from Hicks and the team's stable of talented Minor Leaguers. Girardi said that the Yankees were now locked in and would give Judge plenty of leeway if he got off to a slow start. With the Yankees about to open the regular season, Judge called his folks in California, urging them to hop on the next flight to Florida.
"They were worrying about it, just like any parent would," Judge said. "They just wanted to know what was going on, so I just called them and let them know, 'Hey, I'll be in Tampa on Opening Day.'"
After asking one fan how much he thought the rookie might be able to bench press, Judge nonchalantly replied, "400? You're right." One fan referred to the prospect as "Adam Judge," and another passerby wearing a Yankees jersey figured out the gag when Judge held up his SI cover, offering a double-take before taking note of Judge's toothy smile.
"It was the gap," he said. "There's only two gaps in New York, you and Michael Strahan, man."
The Yankees were visiting Kansas City the day after that segment aired, and Judge said that his phone had been overwhelmed with text messages and voicemails. Judge had tipped off his parents to the upcoming bit, asking them to set their DVRs, but the late-night appearance had come as a surprise to most of Judge's friends and family. "I'm not really a comedian at all, but I think it turned out great," Judge said. "I was nervous the whole time. When I was going through it, I didn't think I was doing well at all. They did a lot of editing, and it really turned into something great."
When several groups of fans began attending games in black robes and white powder wigs, waving signs that included variations of "All Rise," the Yankees responded by unveiling the project that they had discussed during the spring. When the Yankees took the field for batting practice on May 22, "The Judge's Chambers" appeared at the rear of Section 104 in right field, 18 seats boxed in by wood to create the appearance of a courtroom jury box.
New York vs. Kansas City was first on the docket. It would only be Judge's 66th Major League game, but Jason Zillo, the Yankees' director of media relations, said that "The Judge's Chambers" had simply continued the momentum that the fans established on their own.
"It's all part of a shift toward making the experience more interactive," Zillo said. "It's a different era. It's a different group of fans. Fans are looking for things in their trip to a stadium that fans weren't looking for 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago."
The seats became a wildly popular attraction, with fans lining up early for the opportunity to snap selfies in the area. Fans flooded the team's ticket office with inquiries about the section and were told that they could not buy their way into "The Judge's Chambers." Instead, Yankees employees roamed the concourses prior to first pitch, looking for fans who were wearing Judge paraphernalia and offering them the opportunity to upgrade their seat location.
Upon entry, fans were issued black robes with the Yankees logo on the front and Judge's No. 99 on the back, as well as foam gavels. The gavels (also sold in stadium gift shops) were theirs to keep, but the robes were washed and reissued for the next home game. On one occasion, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Sonia Sotomayor spent a few innings in the Chambers, cheering along with her fellow Yankees fans.
"It's pretty unreal," Judge said. "I never would have thought [this could happen] so soon. But the fans like it, so I'm glad they're having fun." (B Hoch - MLB.com - Feb 24, 2018)
This was a moment that happened even before Judge lost one over the center-field wall at Yankee Stadium in the ninth inning Red Sox closer, Craig Kimbrel. It was in the fifth inning, when the Yankees' right fielder—once described by his former manager, Joe Girardi, as a defensive end—closed on a ball hit by J.D. Martinez like a sprinter before making a diving-and-sliding catch.
Tony La Russa, who now works in the Red Sox's front office, was seated in the Yankee Stadium press box when Judge made that catch. La Russa did a lot as a manager and has seen a lot during his baseball life. At that point, he turned, smiled and said this about Judge: "He can't be that good."
But "All Rise" Judge is that good. As good as anybody else in the game right now—his new teammate Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, Manny Machado or any of the other young guys tearing it up. And he is dramatic, especially at Yankee Stadium. When he comes walking in the direction of home plate, that place comes to a stop. He is the one the fans have come to see, about to do what they have paid to see, which is to try to hit another ball toward Monument Park or into the upper deck.
Crowds come to watch Judge do what Babe Ruth once did on the other side of 161st Street at the old Stadium— the one New York legend, baseball legend and sports legend says Ruth built. They want to see him hit balls the way Mickey Mantle did in that same place, when he was young. They want to see home runs. The Yankees first became glamorous because of home runs. Now, they are hitting them again.
Alex Rodriguez hit a ton of home runs for the Yankees. But Yankee fans never considered Rodriguez one of their own, the way Derek Jeter was. It was the same way when Roger Maris was hitting more home runs in the summer of 1961 than Mantle did, when they were both chasing the records and ghost of Ruth. Yankee fans of that time grew up with Mickey, the way young Yankee fans are growing up with Judge now. Stanton may hit more home runs than Judge this season, the way he did last season when he was with Miami. But Judge came to the Stadium first. He was the great big action hero first—and was first to 50 homers for this generation of Yankee fans. It matters.
In addition to everything else, Judge carries himself with the kind of old-Yankee grace that even young Yankee fans appreciate. So in addition to grading high on just about all aspects of the game, Judge grades high on accountability, too. It matters in sports the way it does everywhere else. You wondered how he would hit in 2018, after the way he hit in 2017 on his way to finishing second in the American League MVP voting behind Altuve. Now, he is showing everybody.
Betts has been superb for the Red Sox so far, while Machado is putting up crazy-good numbers for the Orioles—even in a lost season in Baltimore. But Trout is still the best player.
Yeah, Judge is that good. There is no reason, if he is blessed with good health, to think he won't continue to get better. There is a lot to see right now with the Yankees. He is the one the people most want to see at Yankee Stadium.
There are a lot of at-bats to watch in baseball in this time when we're blessed to watch as much young talent as there has ever been, and not just in Boston and New York. Judge is the at-bat you most want to watch. There is no stat to measure that, no analytics. It is something you just see, feel, and know—especially on 161st Street in the Bronx. (Lupica - mlb.com - 5/12/18)
Aaron Judge has become one of the biggest names in Major League Baseball, though his road to stardom was a long and winding one. From his time as a marginal prospect in high school to his selection by the Yankees in the first round, Judge went through plenty of ups before emerging as the superstar you see today.
MLB.com spoke with more than two dozen people who witnessed Judge's journey through the draft process. They shared their memories of Judge and his ascent through the amateur ranks. (Note: Many of the people interviewed for this story currently have different titles or different organizations; the titles listed below were their jobs at the time.)
CHAPTER 1: SCHOOL DAZE
A six-foot freshman is guaranteed to catch the eye of any high school baseball coach, so when Judge started at Linden High School as a ninth-grader, he joined the junior varsity team. He had obvious physical tools, but the teenage version of Judge was not yet the fierce hitter we now see in the Majors.
Joe Piombo Jr., Linden High School assistant coach: "He was talented as a freshman, but to be honest, he was kind of soft. By his junior year, he had the size, the skill set and the work ethic; he's always been a kid that's going to outwork anybody on the field."
Don Lyle, Indians area scout: "The first people who even knew about Aaron were me and a friend of mine named Howard Bowens, who worked for the MLB Scouting Bureau at the time. He called me one day and said, "Hey, do you know this guy named Judge?"
Aaron Judge: "It was all new to me. Coming from a small town, I was like, 'Scouts from pro baseball want to talk to me?'"
Tim McIntosh, Yankees area scout: "My ex-wife grew up in Linden. Everybody knows everybody. Somebody said, 'There's a big kid playing and you've got to go look at him.' My cousin coached Judge in basketball and said, 'He's kind of passive; he's soft. He's the kind of guy that if he knocks you over, he'd let the play go down the court and help the guy up.'"
Kendall Carter, Yankees national cross-checker: "Tim McIntosh kept telling me, 'I want you to come out and see this guy. I don't know what to think of him; he's huge.'"
Even with the rawness in his game, Judge's athletic talent was undeniable. Despite missing much of his junior year with an elbow injury he suffered during a basketball game, Judge became a three-sport star at Linden, catching the eye of scouts as he moved toward his senior year.
Matt Curtis, Fresno State assistant coach: "Donnie Lyle was a big advocate for Aaron, who had slipped through the cracks because of his injury during his junior year. Donnie kept saying, 'You need to look at this kid.' We wound up recruiting him to Fresno."
Judge: "Once I committed to Fresno, I was solely focused on baseball. All the way through high school, I was playing three sports and just enjoying it; I wasn't too serious about any of them. To be honest, I would get tired of the sports. Once it got near the end of football, I'd say, 'I can't wait for basketball season to get here; I'm tired of getting hit every day.' Then once it got to the end of basketball, it was, 'I'm tired of running up and down the court; when does baseball start?' Then when baseball was deep in the season, I would start getting excited for football again. It was a cycle. I think that helps me now, because it's still fresh for me; I'm not worn out from playing 8-and-under travel ball when I was a kid."
Jermaine Clark, Athletics area scout: "Judge came to a pre-draft workout at the [Oakland] Coliseum. All of our scouts and player development people kept asking me, 'What college does he go to?' He was putting balls up in the suite area as a 17- or 18-year-old kid."
Damon Oppenheimer, Yankees VP of domestic amateur scouting: "We recognized that there was future big, raw power; we had future-plus-power numbers on him there. In our mind, we thought, 'This guy's got potential, but college is probably going to be the best route for him.'"
The Athletics selected Judge with their pick in the 31st round of the 2010 draft, perhaps hoping the opportunity to play less than 90 miles from home would persuade him to skip college and turn pro.
Matt Curtis, Fresno State coach: "The power was the last thing to come; he never had a big power surge in high school. With Aaron on the professional side, it was more projection than performance."
Damon Oppenheimer, Yankees: "You get to a point where sometimes it's a local guy, sometimes it's somebody you're taking just a wild shot that maybe this guy will all of a sudden want to go play for the right amount of money. My guess is the A's had a pretty good feeling he was going to go to college."
Judge was honored to be drafted by Oakland, but he turned down the chance to sign— not to mention recruitment by several football schools—to attend Fresno State on a baseball scholarship.
Judge: "When you get the opportunity like that, getting drafted—especially by Oakland, a California team, pretty close to home—it was tempting. At the time, I just didn't think I was ready or mature enough mentally or physically to start pro ball."
Jermaine Clark, Athletics: "He was a 31st-round high school kid with a scholarship to a powerhouse college program whose parents graduated from that college. When you factor in everything that was in play, there was no way we were going to sign him."
CHAPTER 2: FEELING OUT FRESNO
Judge went to Fresno State in the fall of 2010, playing center field on a team that featured future draftees Daniel Muno, Tyler Linehan, Justin Haley, Taylor Garrison and Cody Kendall, all of whom would be drafted in the first 10 rounds. Also on the team was Jordan Ribera, who would lead the NCAA with 27 home runs that season.
Kendall Carter, Yankees: "I don't want to say he was uncoordinated, but [in high school] he was almost like a newborn giraffe. The difference between his senior year in high school and his freshman year of college was a huge jump in the way he moved around."
Tim McIntosh, Yankees: "He transformed overnight. He went from being a gangly, 'This is not pretty' kid to, 'Oh my God, did I miss on this guy.'"
Keith Snider, Giants area scout: "He was a completely different guy. It looked like he put on at least 15-20 pounds from his senior year into his freshman year, and his swing got nice and short to the ball. It was night and day."
CHAPTER 3: THE TURNING POINT
Judge would earn All-Western Athletic Conference honors in each of his first two years at Fresno State, though he hit only six home runs in that span. Following Judge's sophomore year, he headed east to play for the Brewster Whitecaps in the famed Cape Cod Baseball League.
Judge: "The biggest thing for me was getting a chance to face some of the best college players in the game. Whenever you face better competition, you always rise to the occasion. I enjoyed every bit of that summer."
John Altobelli, Brewster manager: "We'd watch him take batting practice, and it looked like he was hitting Pro V1 golf balls out of the ballpark."
John Schiffner, Chatham Anglers manager: "The Cape Cod League is the great equalizer. If you can perform there and hit .250, .260 or anything above that for the length of the season, you've shown you can hit the best college pitching in the country."
Matt Hyde, Yankees area scout: "John Schiffner called me up and said, 'We just played against Brewster, and they've got a kid who is the biggest player I've ever seen on a baseball field. He's got power, but he also stole a base against us and he's an incredible athlete.'"
Brad Grant, Indians director of amateur scouting: "Some of our scouts started to put some really high grades on him during the course of that summer."
Ryon Healy, Brewster first baseman: "The guy gave me a concussion; I hit a home run and he hit me on the helmet congratulating me. He didn't know his own strength, and I didn't know his own strength, either. I legitimately got mad at him because it really hurt. To this day, we'll joke about it."
Judge played 32 games in the Cape that summer, hitting .270 (27-for-100) with five home runs, 16 RBI and 33 strikeouts. Other players including Healy, Sean Manaea, Eric Jagielo and Phil Ervin had much better summers statistically, but Judge opened as many eyes as anybody in the league.
Damon Oppenheimer, Yankees: "I get my first oral report from Matt Hyde. He tells me, 'Hey Damon, when you're up here, make sure you spend some time seeing Aaron Judge. He's really made progress, he's got big power, he's swinging the bat well, and he plays center field.' Brian Barber, our national cross-checker, submitted a report, and it's got 80 for power, 65 arm, 50 run, a future 55 hitter and future 70 power. That gets him up high on our follow board. When we see sevens and eights, it's like diamonds: Harper, Trout, A-Rod kind of guys."
John Altobelli, Brewster: "Teams would stop what they were doing to watch him take batting practice."
Ray Montgomery, D-backs scouting director: "He hit a line drive at the shortstop, who thought he had a chance to make a play if he could jump a little higher; then the ball ends up hitting the fence on a line. That actually happened. It was one of those rare things you see and you go, 'That's not supposed to happen.'"
Matt Hyde, Yankees: "It seems like the good ones always have a legendary story in the Cape League. That's Aaron's story."
John Altobelli, Brewster: "He hit one ball to left field that the left fielder actually came in on, but the ball went over the scoreboard in left field, it had so much backspin on it. He had some legendary shots, that's for sure."
Rob Metzler, Rays assistant director of amateur scouting: "Looking back at it, people say, 'Oh, it was so obvious' or 'Remember the summer Aaron Judge was up here? It was the most amazing thing ever. He hit balls to the moon.' But what did he hit, five home runs that summer?"
CHAPTER 4: MEETING THE MONSTER
The Cape Cod Baseball League plays its games on local high school fields, leaving scouts to imagine what players might look like in big league ballparks. But one day each summer, the entire league heads about 70 miles to the northwest, taking over Fenway Park for a team-by-team workout session.
Judge: "It was kind of a blur. They had us on such a tight time schedule, so I really don't remember that much of it. They told us, 'You only have this amount of time for BP, and we have so many guys to go through, so after you hit it, get back in there and get ready for the next one, because the next one is coming.' We kind of rushed through it so we could get all the guys through, but I enjoyed it. My first time getting to hit BP on a Major League field, taking infield and outfield there; it was all-around a great experience."
John Altobelli, Brewster: "Pretty sure I threw BP to him that day. The effortless swing that he had; a lot of guys were going max effort, grunting as they tried to hit them over the Green Monster so they could have something to talk about. The ease of his swing, the way the hits sounded—especially with no fans in the stadium. It was a different sound than everyone else."
Matt Hyde, Yankees: "You look at that and you go, 'That would look really good in our road grays in this ballpark.'"
Judge: "Playing in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry never really crossed my mind. I thought it would be pretty cool to play here in an actual game one day, but I didn't know that day would actually come so soon."
CHAPTER 5: JUNIOR MINT
Judge's solid summer on the Cape gave him some momentum heading into his junior year at Fresno State. He would hit .369 with a 1.116 OPS in 56 games, belting 12 home runs after hitting only six over his first two college seasons. He was named first-team All-Mountain West.
Damon Oppenheimer, Yankees: "You'd go to watch Aaron take batting practice in college, and sometimes he would not hit a home run, because he was working on something in his swing and was just hitting line drives. Some people probably doubted that there was going to be some huge, raw power there, because they'd go watch him and he wasn't hitting the ball out of the park."
Brian Barber, Yankees: "One day in batting practice, he didn't hit a single home run. What he did was probably hit about 10 line drives that didn't get more than 20 feet in the air and still hit the wall. We didn't have a machine there doing exit velocities, but it had to be one after another that were at least 115 mph."
Damon Oppenheimer, Yankees: "I saw him at Stanford, and he had a tremendous day. I remember it well. He hit five missiles that day and made a good play in the outfield. We ended up having nine different scouts see him and put reports in on him that all said: First Round.'"
Billy Eppler, Yankees assistant GM: "There was a 'Wow' factor, even at that time. The thing that gave you the most confidence walking out of those games was how well [Judge] moved. Not just the run speed, but just how agile he was for that kind of size."
Don Lyle, Indians: "My mind was already set that this guy was going to be special, but trying to sell it to the industry was mighty hard. This was before Statcast, so we weren't measuring stuff the way we can now. A lot of people were at the Fresno-Reno game to see [Braden] Shipley, but I was there to see Aaron. He hit a ball past third base that was only two feet off the ground, and it didn't bounce until it was past the bag. I turned to the other scouts and said, 'That is the hardest ball I've ever seen hit in my life.'
I couldn't put the numbers on it, but if you have never seen a tornado before and you drive through it, the next time you see a tornado, you'll know what it looks like. That's how I felt with Aaron. I couldn't tell you what 119 mph looked like off the bat back then, but I knew it was the hardest ball I'd ever seen hit."
Judge: "It's an exciting time, but it's stressful, too. Especially in college, where you're worried about academics, classwork, making sure you're on time for practice. Then you've got meetings with scouts; after practice, can you meet at a Starbucks to do this? You have different tests you're taking. It's just overwhelming. You've got 30 questionnaires to fill out; they want to know everything about you. They want to know your dog's name."
CHAPTER 6: SIZE MATTERS
Judge had done his part to impress a number of scouts, but some teams remained skeptical of his pro prospects. After all, successful position players with Judge's body type were few and far between. Why would he be the exception rather than the rule? Jim Hendry, Yankees special assignment scout: "Judge obviously doesn't fit the normal mold. There aren't a lot of people in history [who were] 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 that became outstanding Major League hitters. Whether it was Frank Howard, Dave Winfield or Richie Sexson, the common denominator for me is when you're that big, you're going to have some issues with certain parts of the strike zone. Do you have the athleticism and the makeup to overcome that?"
Brian Barber, Yankees: "I don't like comparing somebody I'm seeing as an amateur to somebody that's played in the big leagues, but when you get a guy that's so big, you try to rack your brain to think of who in the big leagues has played at this size. At the time, it was Giancarlo Stanton and nobody else."
CHAPTER 7: MAKE-UP ARTIST
In an age where professional athletes have countless distractions to deal with away from the field, a player's mental makeup and mindset can be as important as the physical tools they take between the white lines. With that in mind, the Yankees sent Chad Bohling, the team's director of mental conditioning, to meet with Judge as they contemplated using a first-round pick on him.
Damon Oppenheimer, Yankees: "Chad goes in there and comes back with, 'I'm all in.' He raved about the guy's makeup; the way he is, he's going to fit in as a teammate and be a hard-worker. Chad doesn't know much about the ability of the player, but he said his makeup is going to allow him to exceed whatever tools he has. That makes you feel good."
Brian Cashman, Yankees senior vice president, GM: "Damon definitely factors in Chad Bohling's opinions. They weigh heavily, whether it's 'He stays on the board' or 'Push him down the ranks and elevate other people.'"
Judge: "It felt like any other old meeting; like any other time I met a scout. That's how it was in my mind; I really didn't see it as 'Hey, they sent one of their bigger guys out here; maybe this might mean something.' It was a little different than the usual meetings. He wanted to get to know me; like, 'How's your family, how do you enjoy it here in school, what makes you tick?'"
Kendall Carter, Yankees: "Mike Batesole, the coach at Fresno State, he's tough on his players; for him to compliment a player is pretty rare. Before the 2011 WAC tournament, I was sitting down the line with a group of scouts, and Batesole was sitting there. I remember he said Aaron Judge was the best makeup guy he's ever had. That really stuck with me. I know the coach, and coming from him, that was a huge compliment."
CHAPTER 8: FEELING A DRAFT
The Yankees were excited about the prospect of selecting Judge in the draft, but other teams like the D-backs and Padres also had him high on their draft boards. Indians area scout Don Lyle may have been Judge's biggest champion, but Cleveland was not considering him at No. 5, and the Tribe didn't have another pick until the third round.
Don Lyle, Indians: "Kevin Towers [then the D-backs' GM] was at the game one day with Jim Hendry for the Yankees. Nobody else was in the stadium but us three. I walked down and asked Batesole if I could say something to Aaron. I told him, 'I've been telling you for the last three years, to hit the ball as hard as you can dead-center and let everything take care of itself. Today, I want you to hit the ball out of the park. Don't try to hit it to right field. Hit it out of the ballpark in BP, and let these two people see your power.'
"He had the most massive BP I've ever seen. I called Brad [Grant] and said, 'Are you sure we don't want to come back and see this guy one more time? He's hitting balls I've never seen before.'"
Brad Grant, Indians: "Our picks didn't line up. And the Yankees actually had our [No. 32] pick, which they got [as compensation] for [when we signed] Nick Swisher."
Brian Cashman, Yankees: "There were nothing but green lights coming from Damon's end. What was overwhelming in his mind is that the [amateur] scouting assessment and the makeup assessments that come from our mental-skills side, too, that this is someone that if you're going to bet on somebody's competitive nature, ability to compete and find a way, this was one of the unique people to do it with.
The Yankees had three first-round picks (Nos. 26, 32, 33), but they were not the only team with multiple selections in the first round. The Marlins (Nos. 6, 35), Royals (Nos. 8, 34), Pirates (Nos. 9, 14) D-backs (Nos. 15, 36), Cardinals (Nos. 19, 28), Tigers (Nos. 20, 39, Rays (Nos. 21, 29), Orioles (Nos. 22, 37), Rangers (Nos. 23, 30) and Reds (Nos. 27, 38) all had two picks apiece too.
Ray Montgomery, D-backs: "I don't think there's anybody that's put on a bigger display of just pure, raw power at any one of our pre-draft workouts [at Salt River Fields] while I was there. Certainly not at that stadium—and we're talking about the Goldschmidts and every Major League player I've seen play there. He was hitting balls over the batter's eye in straightaway center field, and it was just like, 'Man!'
"When you see it in the Cape, it's the Cape. You see it at Fenway, you start to compare it to the guys who have played at Fenway. When you see it in your own Spring Training facility, it just solidifies what you're hoping."
Judge: "The ones I saw the most interest from were a lot of West Coast teams for the most part; Arizona, San Diego. I went to a couple of their pre-draft workouts, so I kind of thought those were some of the teams that might show some interest and potentially draft me. The Yankees were the last ones on my mind, because I really didn't talk to them that much. I had a meeting with one of their mental conditioning guys, but other than that, there wasn't much contact."
CHAPTER 9: THE BIG NIGHT
Judge was one of the potential draftees invited to attend the draft in person at the MLB Network studios in Secaucus, N.J. He made the trip with his parents, Wayne and Patty, who were with him as he waited to find out which team would take him.
Judge: "I was nervous. I couldn't sleep. It was cool getting a chance to tour New York City; I had a chance to come to Yankee Stadium, sit right here in this dugout and look out [and think] 'Wow, this is an amazing place to play at some point.' I never thought it would be so soon."
Despite Don Lyle's belief that Judge had the tools to become a big-time Major League player, the Indians never considered him with the No. 5 pick, selecting another outfielder—Clint Frazier—in that spot.
Brad Grant, Indians: "Don Lyle was the one who saw something really special in there. Don scouted for 30-something years, and this was a player that he stood up and said, 'This guy has a chance to be really, really special.'"
Damon Oppenheimer, Yankees: "I knew Donnie Lyle loved him. But they picked way up top, and I was under the impression he wasn't going to be in their plans. Other than that, it wasn't like I had a bunch of teams that seemed like they'd be in on Judge."
Harold Reynolds, MLB Network analyst: "A lot of people thought [Judge] would probably be [like] Chris Carter—he'd hit .200 and maybe give you 40 homers. One by one, players went off the board. The D-Backs, a team that scouted Judge heavily, selected righthander Braden Shipley at No. 15. When it was the Yankees' turn at No. 26, they drafted Notre Dame third baseman Eric Jagielo, giving five teams—the Reds, Cardinals, Rays, Rangers and Braves—the opportunity to take Judge before New York picked again."
Damon Oppenheimer, Yankees: "We did our recon and the work that our scouts do. We thought we could get [Judge] where we got him. There was some risk in taking Jagielo over Judge, but we felt that was the move. Jim Hendry, Yankees: I don't think any of us thought [Judge] would go before 20, but after 20, all bets are off. Jagielo would have gone the next pick to Cincinnati.
Billy Eppler, Yankees: "Damon slid the magnet on the board and said, 'This is the guy we're taking next if he's there.'"
The Yankees weren't the only team holding their breath with regard to Judge. The D-backs were convinced they would get the slugger at No. 36. Even Judge seemed to believe he was headed to Arizona.
Ray Montgomery, D-backs: "I thought that [Judge] and [No. 2 pick Kris] Bryant were probably the only two guys that had that 40-home-run potential. I was handicapping it strongly that [Judge] was going to be a D-back."
Jim Hendry, Yankees: "That just goes to prove that Damon runs his department and carries himself in a way that, as a general manager, you'd want him to. Why would you ever show your cards to somebody else that you might have interest?"
Brian Barber, Yankees: "We were nervous. We had three picks, and we spent months leading up to it with scenario after scenario after scenario of how we could maximize those picks. Those minutes leading up to it, the 20 minutes between 26 and 32, the heart rate was definitely elevated."
When the Yankees' turn came around at No. 32, they made Judge the second of their three first-round picks.
Judge: "Usually, you get a call from your agent ahead of time saying, 'We just spoke to this team, and we think they're going to take you with this pick.' I didn't hear anything. The funny thing is, moments before that pick, I actually almost got up and went to the bathroom. I kind of had an idea of where I was going to go, so I figured I'd go to the bathroom here in the next couple picks, then come back and hopefully get drafted.
"Right before I stood up to go to the bathroom, they said, 'With the 32nd pick, the Yankees take Aaron Judge.' It took me by surprise."
Kendall Carter, Yankees: "I'm a West Coast guy; I had him higher on my list than where we took him, to be honest with you. I was surprised he was there."
Ray Montgomery, D-backs: "We were lined up to take him with our next pick there, but it just kind of fell the Yankees' way with the picks that they had. Those guys with the Yankees have done such a good job with the draft in recent years. You look back and think, 'If I'd have just flipped [the 15 and 36 picks], took that guy first and took the other guy behind him.' I think everybody would love to have a couple mulligans; you look back at some things three or four years later and you might do it differently."
Jim Hendry, Yankees: "A lot of people had a hand in liking Judge, but Damon is the guy who deserves the ultimate credit, because he pulled the trigger. Everybody is smart now, but if they were that confident in what he was going to become, he would have been in the top 5 or 10 picks."
Five days after drafting Judge, the Yankees were in Oakland to play the Athletics. Judge was invited to join the team, taking batting practice before the game on June 11.
Joe Girardi, Yankees Manager: "The first thing that stood out the most was his size. The second thing that stood out was how far he hit the ball. The third thing that stood out? How respectful he was. His personality, how mature he was; you had a feeling that this kid had a chance to be really, really special."
Billy Eppler, Yankees: "We set up early hitting for him. At the end of early hitting, Girardi said, 'Let's fold him in with the rest of the guys,' so we put him in the last hitting group.
The gates were open, and he was hitting balls where [Yoenis] Cespedes hit them, up into that first row of luxury boxes in dead-center field; I think he hit one off one of the windows up there. The crowd was kind of oohing and aahing and all that. That was a pretty cool moment for him."
Judge: "The whole day, I was just trying to stay out of their way. I had Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Robinson Cano, CC Sabathia and all these guys that I've watched growing up; now I'm sitting here in the clubhouse with them and hitting BP with them.
The cool thing about that clubhouse is we had so many great guys, they were going out of their way. They were coming up to me saying, 'Hey Aaron, how are you doing? Andy Pettitte. Great to meet you.' I was like, 'Andy, I know who you are. You don't have to introduce yourself.'"
He signed with the Yankees, receiving an over-slot bonus of $1.8 million to officially begin his professional career.
Aaron: "I was excited, but I knew this was just the beginning. It's never guaranteed; even though you signed that contract and you're playing for a professional team, there's no guarantee you're ever going to make it to the Major Leagues."
Damon Oppenheimer, Yankees: "You feel fortunate that you got a guy who had the talent that we saw, but also the make-up to maximize that talent. This is about him. It's great that we identified some things and did what we're supposed to do, but the bulk of the credit goes to Aaron Judge for what he's done to make those tools play. You just hope it continues, because he's still kind of in the infancy of his career." (Mark Feinsand - MLB.com.-May 29, 2018)
Aaron more than likely never has to struggle to find a throwing partner. Whether it's Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorius or any number of his teammates, he doesn't have to go out of his way to find someone to toss with. And in this case, when it came to a game of catch, all he had to do was turn around and make a fan's day.
In between innings of the Yankees' 4-2 win over the Phillies on June 25, 2018, Judge walked out to his position in right field. He saw a young fan in the stands with a glove and proceeded to play catch with him.
Judge made the kid's night. That young man had to have strength to toss with a guy like he did and he held his own! (Kleinschmidt - mlb.com - 6/25/18)
In July 2018, Judge was selected to play in the MLB All-Star game.
Feb 5, 2019: If there's still any chance that superstar free agent Bryce Harper could become a Yankee, another Bronx star is willing to do what it takes to make that possibility a reality. Judge told TMZ Sports that he would consider moving to center field to clear a spot for Harper, if that was indeed something that could put New York over the top in the Harper sweepstakes.
"Wherever he wants to play, we'll make it work," Judge told TMZ. "Anytime you can add an MVP to a team, it's going to make it better."
- March 30, 2019: Perched along the railing of the first-base dugout at Yankee Stadium on a Saturday morning, 16-year-old Rachel Hecht locked eyes with Aaron, who greeted the Houston-area high schooler with a warm smile.
"You're so . . . tall," Hecht said, drawing a laugh from the Yankees slugger, who had just completed his rounds of batting practice.
Accompanied by her father, Steven Hecht, and his wife, Deborah Brochstein, Hecht traveled to New York for a rare opportunity to score behind-the-scenes access with her favorite team as part of an auction that benefited the Jackie Robinson Foundation and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.
Wearing press passes for the day, the Hechts "interviewed" Judge. Judge told the youngster that she should expect big things in the Bronx: "It should be a great year. We've got a real good team."
"It was very exciting. I really enjoyed it," Hecht said. "I thought it was great to get to see the players up close and talk to them."
The Hechts got to tour the dugout, the press conference room and the press box.
"I think it was fantastic," Steven Hecht said. "I want to thank Major League Baseball for the opportunity, and wish the Yankees a great season."
Before they walked to their field-level seats along the third-base line, Hecht was asked if she could see herself returning to the ballpark as a reporter someday.
"That's in the cards," she said. "I don't really know what I'm going to do yet, but I think that would be an interesting career. It'd be fun, especially for the Yankees." (B Hoch - MLB.com - March 30, 2019)
April 13, 2019: Every young fan dreams of getting his favorite player's autograph. Not only does the act of getting the autograph mean you get to interact with your idol, but the autograph itself serves as a permanent reminder of that moment. Lately, fans and players have seemingly discovered a new way to interact—the pregame or mid-inning game of catch.
But, what if you could do both: Get an autograph and have a catch with your hero? After catching Judge's home run in the eighth inning, that's exactly what this young fan got to do. Judge was even impressed by his skills. In the span of minutes, this fan caught a home run ball from Judge, got that very ball signed by him and had a catch with him. Many baseball fans go a lifetime without doing any of those things and this kid squeezed them into a single afternoon at the park. (CUT4 - April 13, 2019)
May 7, 2020: On the occasions that Aaron returns to his boyhood home in Linden, Calif., the Yankees star jokes that he should make time to double-check the closet in his parents' bedroom, surprised that a Superwoman cape hasn't surfaced at some point over the past 28 years.
While Judge possesses a hulking build that appears to have been stripped from the pages of a comic book, he says that his mother, Patty, represents the true strength behind the slugger. Judge said that she has influenced every decision that he has ever made, describing his mom as “an incredibly caring individual.”
"I know I wouldn't be a New York Yankee if it wasn't for my mom," Judge said. "The guidance she gave me as a kid growing up, knowing the difference from right and wrong, how to treat people and how to go the extra mile and put in extra work, all that kind of stuff. She's molded me into the person that I am today."
Early in 2017, former Yankees manager Joe Girardi paid Judge a compliment of the highest pinstriped order, comparing his personality and presence to that of Derek Jeter. Judge replied that he was honored, but that he was simply trying to be "the best Aaron Judge I can be."
That mission started about 100 miles northeast of San Francisco in California’s Central Valley, where Judge took his first cues from Patty and Wayne Judge, recently retired schoolteachers who ensured that the pursuit of education would be a priority in their son’s life.
"It's helped me try to live to a higher standard," Judge said. "They wanted me to always make sure I put education first and make sure I prioritized everything. If I was going to make plans, stick to them. Make sure I'm on a tight schedule and make sure I don't miss anything."
Not that Judge was always so understanding, something that he laughed about years later.
"I wanted to go outside and play with my friends or play some video games, but they were tough on me," Judge said. "They'd say, 'Hey, you've got homework to do. You've got to finish your math homework and science homework. Then if you have time left over before dinner, you can go play.' Something like that. I didn't like it as a kid, but looking back on it, I really appreciate what they did for me."
Patty and Wayne adopted Judge the day after he was born in April 1992. He has an older brother, John, who has also become a teacher. Judge was in elementary school when he asked why he and his parents did not look alike.
"I think it was like, 'I don't look like you, Mom. I don't look like you, Dad. Like, what's going on here?'" Judge said. "They just kind of told me I was adopted. I was like, 'OK, that's fine with me.' You're still my mom, the only mom I know. You're still my dad, the only dad I know.
"Nothing really changed. I honestly can't even remember too much, because it wasn't that big of a deal. They just told me I was adopted, and I said, 'OK, can I go outside and play?'"
Judge has said that he still speaks daily with his parents, who have frequently joined the Yankees on road trips over the past three years. They joined him in Tampa, Fla., this spring, which should make his usual Mother’s Day message even easier to deliver.
"I'll just thank her again for everything she's done, and tell her again I know I wouldn't be in the position I am now if it wasn't for her love and guidance," Judge said. (B Hoch - MLB.com - May 7, 2020)
Aaron often adds "II Corinthians 5:7" to his autograph. "For we live by believing, not by our five senses."
Judge is a man of faith, a solid Christian. His morality is shaped by believing. And he makes time for fans and youngsters. He has a Foundation that strives to turn young folks into leaders and to make adults realize their role they play in fostering their children's future possibilities.
So much that gets written about Aaron focuses on what he has done, or his physical stature or his raw ability. Conversations between Yankees fans generally seem to follow that road, and frankly, it makes sense. For all of the praise Judge has received for driving baseballs high into the sky, it can all combine to overshadow the cerebral strengths evident in his game and his personality.
The mental toughness and resiliency Judge has shown during his first four Major League seasons may be the most impressive aspect of who he is. Judge’s attitude rarely comes up for discussion . . . and perhaps for good reason. Admittedly, remaining optimistic in the face of injury is not as showstopping as those 450-foot blasts.
Judge’s time in the Majors has not always been a smooth ride, but you would never know that merely from hearing him discuss his four complete seasons in pinstripes. He has had to overcome injuries, and there have been times when it has seemed that American League pitchers have known exactly how to get him out.
Nevertheless, Judge’s words, and more than that, his tone, have never wavered. His confidence and will are as strong as his muscular frame. Judge broke into the Majors in August 2016, three seasons after the Yankees selected him with the 32nd overall pick in the 2013 Draft. In the weeks leading up to his call to the bigs, the hope was that the 6-foot-7 slugger would soon be a superstar, and that he would remain at the top of the sport for a long time. Judge hit four home runs in 27 games during his first month and a half with the Yankees. But he also struggled to connect with off-speed pitches, striking out 42 times and finishing the season with a .179 average.
That offseason, Judge watched every one of his big league at-bats and worked to make the necessary adjustments. While the baseball world was less than certain about what Judge would become heading into the 2017 season, he had no doubts.
“I knew what I had to do that winter,” Judge said during the Yankees’ mid-April 2021 series against the Toronto Blue Jays. “I came to Spring Training in 2017 completely prepared for what was in store. I felt like if I put in the work, both physically and from the standpoint of learning what pitchers were going to do to try to get me out, I would be able to make a big improvement.”
Labeling what Judge did in 2017 as a big improvement over his 2016 showing is quite an understatement. In his breakout season of ’17, Aaron led the American League with 52 home runs. He drove in 114 runs, and although he stuck out 208 times, Judge batted .284 while also leading the AL with 127 walks and 128 runs. He won the Home Run Derby during the Midsummer Classic festivities, took home the AL Rookie of the Year, and finished second to Jose Altuve for AL MVP.
For all the success Judge had during his first of two All-Star seasons, he’s quick to point out that it didn’t come without having to make constant adjustments. AL pitchers may not have been prepared for Judge during the first half of the season. But they were by August 2017, when he batted just .185, dropping his season mark from .303 on July 31 to .279 by month’s end.
“To start off, personally, even though the end results were good, getting a chance to play in my first All-Star Game and play in the postseason for the first time, that season had its ups and downs,” Judge said. “It was a grind for me, physically and mentally. When you look at the stats, you see the 52 homers and 114 RBI, but it was a grind. I was fine-tuning things every day, always going back into the lab to try to figure out what I could do to get back on the bump. I had hot stretches and times where I was cold. That season was a constant battle and constant grind, and that makes me proud that I was able to do some good things.”
Judge contends that he learned as much from the challenges with which the 2017 season hit him as he did from the home runs he crushed. He wasn’t surprised by the way he played, and of greater significance, the Yankees’ re-emergence that October certainly didn’t come as a shock to Judge. After failing to win a postseason series in the previous four seasons, the Yankees won the 2017 AL Wild Card Game, then came back to defeat Cleveland in the AL Division Series after trailing, 2 games to none. The team followed that triumph with a back-and-forth battle against Houston, falling short in the final game.
“Making it to Game 7 of the ALCS, that’s honestly something that I expected,” Judge said. “Being in the Yankees organization, that’s something that is instilled into our minds at an early age, especially in the Minor Leagues. We’re winners. You come here to compete day in and day out, and you give yourself a good chance to win the whole thing going into October. We went on a run that postseason, and that’s what I expected us to do. That was a very special group, but that was nothing new for the guys in that clubhouse. We had all won in the Minors, and that’s what we felt like we could do when we got to the Majors.”
In that ALCS, Judge continued to prove that no moment was too big for him. He hit three home runs and drove in seven. But whether discussing that postseason or the team’s three October appearances since, Judge steers the conversation toward the only subject he cares about. "The individual postseason statistics aren’t worth talking about,” he said. “If I go 0-for-4 in a playoff game and we win, that’s great. If I hit two home runs and we lose, that’s a bad night.” (Santasiere - Yankees Magazine - 5/19/2021)
Aaron credits his parents with steadfastly emphasizing the importance of a team-first mentality. And he notes the other people who have mentored him along the way, including his coach at Fresno State.
“From a young age, my parents taught me to have respect for the game and for my teammates,” he said. “It’s not all about you, whether you’re having a good day or a bad day. When I got to college, having a chance to play for Mike Batesole, who just won his 600th game, was so important for me. He instilled that it’s about the team first. It’s about putting the other guys in the lineup ahead of yourself. He instilled that every day.
"If we used the words ‘me,’ ‘my’ or ‘I’ in our postgame interviews, we got fined. That made us be cautious about talking about ourselves because baseball is a team game. If I hit a walk-off home run, it’s still about what the pitcher did to keep us in the game, or the double play that our infielders made in the sixth inning to help win the game. That’s something I will never forget or lose sight of.”
The first four months of the 2018 season were no different from 2017 for Judge. He earned his second All-Star Game selection. And he hit 25 home runs before the All-Star break, joining Roger Maris as the only Yankees sluggers to do so in consecutive seasons. Unfortunately for Judge and the Yankees, the tide turned in the second half of that season.
After suffering a chip fracture to his right wrist when he was hit by a pitch, Judge was sidelined from late July through mid-September. Although he hit just two more home runs in the regular season, finishing with 27, Judge again did his part in the postseason. In the Yankees’ ALDS loss to the Red Sox, the slugging outfielder batted .375 with two home runs.
Judge was injured again in 2019, but the timeline was quite different from the previous season. A left oblique strain sidelined him for two months beginning in late April. But following his return in June, Judge never looked back, finishing the regular season with the same home run total (27) as the previous year. He again played an integral role in the team’s postseason run, which saw the Yankees fall to Houston in the ALCS for the second time in three seasons.
Things were especially perplexing for Judge at the start of Spring Training in 2020. Before Judge could get on the field, he was diagnosed with a partially collapsed lung that was related to a fractured right rib. The injury actually occurred the previous September, when Judge dove for a ball off the bat of Albert Pujols. While Judge was rehabbing the injury during Spring Training, the COVID-19 pandemic began to ravage the world, putting the baseball season on hold for several months.
During that time, Judge was able to allow his rib and lung injuries to fully heal. It also made him hungrier than ever to get back onto the field. “That’s when it really hit me,” Judge said. “Our season got cut out, and we really didn’t know when we were going to start up. I remember sitting on the couch one day thinking, ‘I could really go for a rain-delay game, or an extra-innings game, or an 0-for-4 game.’ Those were the kinds of days you wished you could skip through in the past. But during the pandemic, I just wanted to be out there. So many people were dealing with things that were worse than anything I had to deal with, so from that standpoint, I just reflected on how much I love playing baseball, playing for the Yankees, and how much I wanted to compete. I don’t think the desire to put the uniform on was ever as intense for me.”
Beyond being a determined baseball player since childhood, Judge is a realist. When discussing the injuries he has dealt with over the 2017-20, he’s mindful that in an ideal world, he would have been on the field more. But he’s also able to keep things in perspective. Playing baseball at the highest level was never an opportunity he took for granted, and those thoughts are even more prevalent for him now.
“I just realize how blessed I am to be in this position,” he said. “Very few people get the chance to play in the Majors, and far fewer get a chance to wear the pinstripes and play for the New York Yankees. So any time I get the chance to come to the ballpark and be around my teammates, which include MVPs and Cy Young Award winners, it really is a blessing. I have realized that every day that I’m at the ballpark, regardless of how things go in the game, I’m lucky to be able to do this. You have to even appreciate the days we lose because you learn from those experiences; you learn how to move on and grow from it so that you can win the next game. That’s the beauty of baseball; you always have a game the next day that you can rebound from and answer back from. I have always tried to have a positive mindset and not feel like anything is a given.”
Judge played in just 28 of the team’s 60 games in 2020, hitting nine regular-season home runs. He missed a few weeks of action beginning in mid-August because of a calf strain, then returned to the field for good on Sept. 16 and went on to hit three homers in seven postseason games. The Yankees won the AL Wild Card Series against Cleveland and then lost to Tampa Bay in the ALDS.
All that happened during the 2020 season and postseason influenced Judge. He went into the offseason determined to make the most of the winter months and to come into Spring Training 2021 ready to play a full season. “We played into the middle of October, and you want to give your body some time to recover, but in my mind, I’m thinking that there are 23 other teams out there that have already had their chance to rest and reflect, and they are back in the gym,” he said. “By the time we got done playing, they are already trying to make improvements to get better. So, after a week or two, I wanted to get back into the gym and into the batting cages.”
Judge’s anxiousness to get back to work was no different than it was before, but his offseason workout regimen following the 2020 campaign changed dramatically. Working closely with Eric Cressey, the team’s director of player health and performance since 2020, Judge increased the amount of yoga training he did, while also decreasing other aspects of his regimen. “Every year, I like to make some changes,” Judge said. “I always like to do some yoga in the offseason, but this time around, I felt that it would really help to do more of it. I tell everyone that they should hop into a hot yoga session and get moving a little. It will kick your butt, but it will help you stay healthy. The stuff I did this offseason is going to help prepare me to play a full season with this team and to eventually bring back a championship."
Prior to Spring Training, Cressey spoke about the work he did with Judge in the offseason. “Any time you see an athlete who has some chronic injuries, there is a perception that he’s not working hard,” Cressey said. “That couldn’t be further from the truth. Aaron is a rock star in every aspect of his preparation, from how he comes into the training room to what he does in the weight room. This offseason, he has lifted less than in the past. Aaron in particular has really taken a heavy interest in a lot of yoga. We have to be mindful of the stresses on guys who are 6-foot-7, big dudes who are standing around for long periods of time in cleats.” (Santasiere - Yankees Magazine - 5/19/2021)
Aaron arrived in Tampa for Spring Training 2021 feeling good about the work he put in over the winter and focused on the goals he has yet to accomplish.
“I always have the stuff that I keep private, like how many hits, homers, RBI I want to get,” Judge said. “But the thing that is still at the top of my list is getting that first World Series berth and bringing home a championship. I want to be on that podium holding up the World Series trophy with my teammates. That’s the one thing that continues to drive me and push me every day I wake up. We’re on a mission here, and we still haven’t accomplished it. It’s something that eats at me every day and fuels me in the offseason.”
Judge continued to strengthen his body during Spring Training and played well during the first month of the season. He did, however, sit out for two games after experiencing soreness on his left side. When asked about the brief respite, Judge waxes poetic about the big picture. “I feel great,” he said. “I really wouldn’t call two off days ‘leaving the field.’ It’s just about playing smart. I’d rather miss two days and play 158 games than miss a whole month and only play 130. But I have always felt good. You’re going to have ups and downs during the season, but those 3-for-4 days and 4-for-4 days and big wins against rivals mean so much more after going through some tough days. I’m looking forward to getting rolling with this team.”
Judge knows that when his career is discussed, people will focus as much on what he hasn’t done as what he has accomplished. He knows that we all live in a “what have you done for me lately?” society, and he’s fine with that. But when he’s asked to reflect on his big league journey thus far, Judge remains grateful.
“For me, it’s been a quick five years here,” Judge said. “And I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I’ve been surrounded by so many great players who I’ve come up with through the Minor Leagues and who are still with the team. It’s been a special journey to this point. Through all of the ups and downs, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”
After a brief pause, Judge, whose career totals through mid-April of 2021 included 123 home runs and 275 RBI, collected his thoughts. “I would have liked to have had a few World Series rings by now, but I’ve got the next 10 or 15 years to do that," he said. (Santasiere - Yankees Magazine - 5/19/2021)
July 2021: Judge was chosen the starting outfield for the AL in the MLB All-Star Game.
Dec. 2021: Judge was married to longtime girlfriend Samantha Bracksieck.
“There are two things that really separate those guys from other guys,” Batesole said. “One is their aptitude. They have tremendous feel. That comes from taking a billion swings. Everyone thinks Judge is this super-talented, super-human. Nobody takes more swings than him. I mean, nobody. That’s how you get that aptitude.
“The other thing is that these guys have old-school character. I wish I could say it came from us. But it came from their parents. Loyalty, accountability, accepting responsibility, all those things help you in life. If you don’t have those on the baseball field and you’re pointing fingers, you’re in a lot of trouble. These guys are old-school, 1950s tough.” (Rosenthal - TheAthletic.com - May 20, 2022)
June 30, 2022: Judge, 30, was named a starter for the All-Star Game for the fourth time in his career. He led the majors in home runs (29) and runs (62) through 74 games. He is batting .290 and added 59 RBIs.
The physical attributes that separate Judge from his peers are obvious: He has size, strength, and can drive just about any pitch over the wall. But Judge doesn’t settle for the baseline success his skills would seem to give him: He is a meticulous preparer who is consistent in his work to try to get more out of his bat and body. He’s an overall better hitter now than he was in his wildly successful 2017 breakout season, and most around the Yankees attribute his development to his conscious application of the lessons of experience to his routines and training.
Yet Mister Larger-Than-Life has managed to live only where the spotlight of the sport finds him, rather than seeking it out. He is a quiet, guarded, deeply private man, yet his name and likeness decorate nearly every corner of Yankee Stadium — and this after less than six full years on the major-league roster.
He is an All-Star for the fourth time in six years and is on track to contend for the American League MVP award for the second time in his career. “My routine has kind of been the same, even since the minor leagues,” Judge said. “My main objective is to try to drill a line drive at the second baseman’s head every single time I get a pitch to hit. That’s usually what I focus on the first couple of rounds, but there’s always a round or two where you see where the power is at and let it eat.”
“Homework goes to your grade, right? It always goes to the final grade, but it may only be 20 percent of it,” Judge says. “The final is probably bout 50 percent of your grade. So you want to make sure you’re doing well on the homework that’s going to set you up to be in a better spot going into that final. But you really want to ace that final, because that’s where it all counts. Do the homework, but it’s all about the final grade.”
Judge is the son of retired teachers, and he takes his responsibility as a role model to young fans seriously. So, ever cautious of how his audience may perceive his comments, he wants to be clear: Homework is important.
After about a half hour of taking swings in the cage with his teammates, Judge greets the children on the field who are wearing his name and number, condensing his 6’7” frame to meet them at eye level. He understands that to a child who is 2-3 feet shorter than him, and knows who he is because he hits home runs on their TV every third night, he seems like something mythical. Judge is just another human — albeit a tall and talented one — but who could blame a child for seeing him as a superhuman?
As he runs onto the field to finish warming up his body, the Yankee Stadium PA begins blasting “And Your Bird Can Sing” by The Beatles, a filler track that has to compete with a cheering crowd that has noticed that the Judge has emerged from his chambers.
“Tell me that you’ve got everything you want,” blares through the ballpark as he takes his daily moment of prayer and reflection in the outfield.
Judge has worked his way to living millions of children’s dreams. But he remains unsatisfied. He is unwavering in his assertion that what he wants — a championship victory with the Yankees — is not yet what he’s got. (Adler-TheAthletic.com- July 20, 2022)
Home run records, and the historical chases for them, are undeniably one of the most fraught elements of baseball history. Roger Maris struggled so badly under the weight of attention and his own desire to break Babe Ruth’s single-season MLB record of 60 home runs that he began losing clumps of hair.
“His hairline is tremendous,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of Judge, referencing Maris and his outfielder’s ability to stay steady under the increasing attention on his home run rate.
Yet for all of the drama that has and will always come with a player chasing a home run benchmark or team record, it is undeniable that watching Judge slam well-timed home run after well-timed home run this season has been nothing short of exciting, and the anticipation of his final home run total creates a remarkable storyline to follow amid a season during which Judge and the Yankees are already generating a lot of buzz.The next afternoon, after hitting another home run — the 200th of his career — Judge said he intends to “just keep my head down and help this team win games. At the end of the year, we can talk about what I finish at.” (Adler-TheAthletic.com-July 31, 2022)
Aaron Judge blasted his 45th home run of the season in the seventh inning of the Yankees’ contest against the Mariners on Wednesday. The home run, which was the 203rd of Judge’s career, moved him into a tie with Roger Maris for the 16th-most home runs all-time in franchise history.
The homer also keeps Judge ahead of Maris’ 1961 home run pace. Should Judge surpass Maris’ 61 homers from 1961, he will break the American League record for most home runs hit in a single season. (TheAthletic.com- August 10th, 2022)
Sept. 2022: Judge chose to play for team USA in the 2023 WBC.
Roger Maris Jr. wants his father’s — and now also Aaron Judge’s — American League single-season home run record to be recognized as the league-wide mark.
In a news conference shortly after the Yankees slugger hit his 61st home run of the 2022 season, tying Maris’ 61-year-old mark, Maris Jr. said that Judge “should be revered for being the actual single-season home run champ” if he goes on to hit a 62nd home run.
“That’s really who he is if he hits 62,” Maris Jr., who has attended every Yankees game since Judge hit his 60th homer, said. “I think that’s what needs to happen. I think baseball needs to look at the records and I think baseball should do something.”
“I think it means a lot — not just for me — it means a lot for a lot of people that he’s clean, he’s a Yankee, he plays the game the right way, and I think gives people a chance to look at somebody who should be revered for hitting 62 home runs and not just as a guy who did it in the American League.”
Judge and Maris are two of the five players in MLB history to hit at least 61 home runs in a single season; the other three played in the National League during their best seasons. Barry Bonds holds what’s officially recognized as the all-time single-season record with 73 homers in 2001, Mark McGwire hit 70 in 1998 and Sammy Sosa hit 66 the same year. However, Bonds, McGwire and Sosa have all been connected to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Asked whether he considers the others “illegitimate,” Maris Jr. said: “I do. I think most people do.” (The Athletic-Sep 28,2022)
Oct 4, 2022: No. 62! Judge breaks Maris’ all-time AL HR record!
When Babe Ruth set a new league record with his 60th home run of the 1927 season, the bombastic Bambino had thumped his chest, challenging the world to match that staggering total. An exhausted Roger Maris edged "The Babe" on the last day of the 1961 season, later expressing a feeling of “exultation” that the chase was over.
Sixty-one years after Maris captivated the baseball world with his pursuit of Ruth’s beloved record, Aaron Judge now stands alone as the American League’s single-season home run king. Three Yankees right fielders across three eras of baseball history, all having experienced the thrills of chasing a magnificent mark.
“I tried to enjoy every single moment,” Judge said. “I didn’t think about, ‘Hey, they’re all on their feet to see you hit a home run.’ I tried to think about, ‘Hey, they’re here to see an exciting ballgame and see something special.’ Having that mindset helped me stay pretty calm, but there was definitely a little pressure in there.” Judge hit his record-breaking 62nd home run on Tuesday at Globe Life Field, launching a 1-1 slider from Rangers right-hander Jesus Tinoco to open the second game of a split doubleheader. On a night when No. 99 hit No. 62, the Yankees’ 3-2 loss gave them a record of -- wait for it -- 99-62.
“Just an all-time great season,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. “He’s been the leader of this team, for a division-winning team, one for which he’s gotten big hit after big hit. I think it’s a historically great season, and one we’ll talk about when we’re long gone.” (B Hoch - MLB.com - Oct 5, 2022)
Aug 6, 2022: What Judge will remember most from No. 62? The Fans!
Aaron Judge needed some time to absorb the magnitude of his record-setting 62nd home run having received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd at Globe Life Field as he jogged in from his position in right field. In a quiet corner of the visiting clubhouse, the Yankees star collected his thoughts.
Judge had passed Roger Maris, crushing a first-inning blast into the left-field seats, to secure his place as the American League’s single-season all-time home run king. As Judge gazed into an ocean of cameras and microphones, the probable AL Most Valuable Player was asked what he would remember most from this frenzied home run chase. “The fans,” Judge replied. “The fans at home, the fans on the road. The constant support; seeing Yankee Stadium on their feet for every single at-bat. They were booing pitchers for throwing balls, which I’ve never seen before. I think I got a base hit the other night, and I was getting booed for a single. It’s just little moments like that you look back on.”
There had been opportunities for Judge to surpass Maris in the Bronx; after slugging his 60th homer on Sept. 20 against the Pirates, Judge went homerless until Sept. 28 against the Blue Jays in Toronto, when he equaled Maris with No. 61. Judge was kept in the ballpark by the Orioles over a three-game series from Oct. 1-3 at Yankee Stadium, cementing the fact that if he were to pass Maris, it would have to take place in Texas. “It would have been great to do it in Yankee Stadium in front of our home fans,” Judge said. “But I know a lot of Yankees fans; they travel well. There were a lot of Yankees fans here, and I got a chance to share that experience with the fans.”
After looking at a ball and a strike, Judge unloaded on an 88.4 mph offering from Rangers right-hander Jesus Tinoco, slugging a Statcast-projected 391-foot drive toward the left-field seats. The ball, marked with “C 13” for authentication purposes, was secured by Cory Youmans, a fan seated in Section 31, Row 1, Seat 3. “I had a good feeling off the bat,” Judge said. “I just didn’t know where it was going to land or what it was going to hit. There was a good sense of relief once I saw it in that fan’s glove.” (B Hoch - MLB.com - Oct 6, 2022)
2022 Season: Aaron Judge etched a permanent spot in the memories of baseball fans when he set the American League single-season home run record and chased a Triple Crown down the stretch. Now, he has a final accolade to top his historic 2022.
The New York Yankees slugger was crowned AL Most Valuable Player on 11-17, beating out Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels and Yordan Alvarez of the Houston Astros. He is the first Yankees outfielder to win the award since Mickey Mantle in 1962.
Judge received 28 first-place votes and 410 points, edging Ohtani (280) by 130 points. Ohtani was the only other player to receive first-place votes, with two. Alvarez had 232 points to finish third.
Judge led the AL in a host of offensive categories, including home runs (62), RBIs (131), slugging percentage (.686), on-base percentage (.425), OPS+ (211) and total bases (391). He previously finished as a runner-up for AL MVP in 2017, when he was the unanimous AL Rookie of the Year.
He became just the fourth major leaguer to hit more than 62 homers in a single season, joining Barry Bonds (73 in 2001), Mark McGwire (70 in 1998, 65 in 1999) and Sammy Sosa (66 in 1998, 63 in 1999). He fell just five points shy (.311) of Minnesota Twins infielder Luis Arraez for the batting title, which would have completed the Triple Crown.
The MVP honor caps a season that started with tumult around contract negotiations with the Yankees as he entered the final year of his deal. Judge set a self-imposed deadline of Opening Day to negotiate a potential extension, but the sides failed to come to an agreement. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman then took an unusual step in publicly revealing the terms of the contract the team offered Judge -- an eight-year, $230.5 million extension. Judge turned down the offer, expecting greater things if he hit the free-agent market after this season.
The season started relatively slowly for Judge, as he hit six homers in 75 at-bats in April. But once the calendar turned to May, Judge took off. The Yankees outfielder hit 12 homers that month, 11 in June, 13 in July, nine in August and 10 in September before hitting No. 62 on the final day of the season in October. The 157 games Judge played during 2022 were his most since his rookie season, the previous best year of his career by bWAR (8.1).
Judge's consistency from month to month served as the backbone for a New York offense that at points struggled to stay healthy and produce around him. By the end of the season, it ranked second behind the Dodgers in baseball, scoring 807 runs.
As Judge approached Roger Maris' AL record of 61 homers, each of his at-bats became an event. At games both at Yankee Stadium and on the road, fans stood up every time he stepped into the batter's box and remained there for every single pitch. Members of the Yankees jostled for spots on the top step of the dugout to get a spot to watch their teammate potentially make history.
Judge hit the record-tying 61st home run on Sept. 28, taking Toronto Blue Jays reliever Tim Mayza deep in the seventh inning in game No. 155 for the Yankees. The history-making homer ended a seven-game home run drought.
No. 62 did not come until Oct. 4, in the second-to-last game of the Yankees' season. The record-breaker came off Texas Rangers pitcher Jesus Tinoco, a leadoff shot to left field.
While Judge put together a regular season for the record book, he came up short during the postseason, hitting his worst stretch of the season as the Yankees played the Cleveland Guardians in the AL Division Series and the Houston Astros in the AL Championship Series. In nine games, Judge hit .139/.184/.306 with two homers among five hits in nine games. The eventual World Series champion Astros ended the Yankees' season with a four-game sweep in the ALCS. ( Joon Lee, ESPN - Nov. 17, 2022)
Nov 19, 2022: Aaron Judge has a new contract offer from the Yankees in hand, and the free-agent slugger has plenty of friends by his side.
Judge was in New York to host a gala for his All Rise Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to inspire children and youth to become responsible citizens by engaging them in activities that encourage reaching unlimited possibilities.
It was a star-studded event, with Judge welcoming numerous familiar faces under the city’s bright lights. The Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu, Harrison Bader and Michael King were present, as well as the Athletics’ Tyler Wade and free agents Luke Voit and Jameson Taillon. The event was held one day after Judge won the American League Most Valuable Player Award, coinciding with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman reiterating the club’s desire to re-sign Judge.
Cashman revealed that the Yankees extended an updated contract offer to Judge, who turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million extension in March. Negotiations reopened the day after the Yanks’ elimination in the AL Championship Series, according to Cashman, who declined to provide the terms of the club’s new offer. “We’re in real time, so we’re on the clock,” Cashman said. “We’re certainly not going to mess around. Of course we’ve made an offer since Spring Training. If it hasn’t been said clearly, [managing general partner] Hal Steinbrenner has had face-to-face [time] with Aaron Judge and I’ve engaged with his agents.”
Steinbrenner told Judge “that I want him to be the Yankee for the rest of his life.”
“The rest is up to him and his family and where they want to go from here,” Steinbrenner said. “But we’re going to do what we can, I can assure you.”
Judge said that the chat with Steinbrenner represented “a great sign for me in this process.” Still, Judge seems intent upon enjoying the free-agent experience, aiming to meet with other clubs and determine the best fit for his future.
“I don’t know how fast it’s going to go or how slow it’s going to go,” Judge said. “There’s teams that we’ve talked to. For me, if we’re going to build a winning team, if I can get my [contract] stuff out of the way so they can kind of move on and add some more pieces to build teams up, I think that’s always an advantage for wherever I go.” (B Hoch - MLB.com - Nov 19, 2022)
Dec 8, 2022: The private jet carrying Aaron Judge toward the West Coast was ripping through air space at approximately 500 mph on the afternoon of Dec 6, somewhere west of San Antonio, Texas. And the Yankees’ world had just been rocked by a Tweet.
Someone in the club’s suite at the Manchester Grand Hyatt alerted general manager Brian Cashman, relaying what seemed to be breaking news: Judge appeared to be headed to the Giants. Cashman first asked if it was from a verified account. The reporter had misspelled Judge’s first name as “Arson,” possibly an autocorrection, but it otherwise appeared to be legitimate.
Cashman pondered calling managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, but he instead dialed Judge’s agent, Page Odle, who said no agreement had been reached. The mood in the war room dipped from code-red panic to general anxiety. The Yankees were still alive, but spirits were glum, and Cashman sensed that time was running short -- especially when word of San Francisco’s nine-year offer came in. “He’s our franchise player, and we want to retain him,” Cashman said. “We were going to make every effort to do so. He’s not just an offensive force and one of the great hitters of this generation and maybe all time, but the defense is spectacular, too. He’s just a remarkably gifted player, and that’s why it’s going to take a remarkable contract to retain [him].”
New York’s offer to Judge stood at eight years when Judge’s jet touched down in San Diego around 4:15 p.m. PT. The American League Most Valuable Player hustled to a clandestine three-hour meeting at Petco Park with the Padres, who surprised Judge and Odle by discussing numbers that would best the offers on the table from the Yankees and Giants: a staggering 10 years and $400 million.
Now, Judge’s decision grew more difficult. The Linden, Calif., native had made no secret that he’d dreamed of playing for the Giants, counting infielder Rich Aurilia and outfielder Barry Bonds as the favorite players of his childhood. If he wanted to follow in their footsteps, this was the chance. The Padres had the most years and dollars on the table. There were surely worse fates than spending the next decade in picture-perfect Southern California.
It was time, Cashman thought, to bring in his closer. Steinbrenner was nine hours ahead in Italy, where his vacation was interrupted by an appraisal of the situation. The Yankees were in the dark about where the Giants’ offer stood, but they suspected San Francisco had gone to a ninth year. They were wholly unaware of the Padres’ sneak attack. Steinbrenner reached Judge directly with a point-blank question: “Do you want to be a Yankee?”
Judge affirmed that he did -- as he had maintained since Spring Training and the contract extension offer he had rejected -- but he wanted a ninth year. Steinbrenner -- who had told Judge in a face-to-face meeting that he and his family wanted Judge to play his entire career in pinstripes -- agreed. That was it: There would still need to be physicals taken and reams of paperwork sifted through, but Judge was staying with the Yankees.
Cashman stayed up through the night hammering out details, playing the role of air traffic controller between Steinbrenner and Odle, while Judge alerted a few teammates and prepared to board another plane bound for a Hawaiian vacation with his wife, Samantha. A news conference at Yankee Stadium will take place upon their return, where Judge could be named the club’s first captain since Derek Jeter.
“He’s one of the game’s great players,” manager Aaron Boone said. “ It was a long, rough day in a lot of ways. [Retaining Judge] is an enormous boost, because it hopefully allows us to support around him, filling out our roster.” (B Hoch - MLB.com - Dec 7, 2022)
Dec. 30, 2022: After hitting 62 home runs to break an American League record that lasted six decades, Judge has been voted The Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year by a panel of 40 sports writers and editors from news outlets across the country.
Jan 26, 2023: Aaron Judge recalls watching Anthony Rizzo curiously during their first few weeks as teammates, observing the veteran first baseman’s detailed preparation routine and how his personality would fit into the Yankees’ clubhouse.
“This was a guy that just got traded away from a great franchise to the New York Yankees, and we’re on a playoff run,” Judge said. “It was like, ‘How’s this guy going to handle himself?’ He stepped right into that role of being a leader from Day 1. That was one thing that I picked up a lot from Anthony.”
Judge delved deep into his thoughts on leadership as part of a webinar series for his ALL RISE Foundation this week, chatting for an hour with Rizzo.
In an appearance on NBC’s "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," Judge suggested that Rizzo may have been the Yankees’ secret weapon in accelerating his contract negotiations with the Bombers, pushing Judge to remain in New York with daily phone calls and text messages that included snapshots of their adorable dachshunds roaming the Yankee Stadium outfield together.
The friendship between Judge and Rizzo developed quickly in 2021, when Rizzo was acquired midseason from the Cubs, and they became further bonded during Judge’s record-setting summer of ’22. That placed Rizzo in a unique position to help counsel Judge during his free-agency period.
“Every team wanted him, and rightfully so,” Rizzo said. “I just remember talking him through the process. There was a point in the zero hour where it was starting to get a little dicey. I want to play with Aaron. Sam and Emily, our wives, get along great. Our dogs get along great. It’s a great relationship. You give friendly advice: ‘Hey, what’s going to make you happy?’”
As Judge prepares to take on the challenges of serving as the 16th captain in franchise history, he said some aspects of Rizzo’s leadership will play a part. Judge added that when a new face enters the room, like Rizzo did in 2021, he feels a responsibility to make first contact.
“Whether it’s a rookie that just got called up or somebody we traded for, I want to go over there, introduce myself and kind of try to be a familiar face,” Judge said. “You say, ‘Hey, I’m Aaron. Great to meet you. If you’ve got any questions, you need anything, come to me. We’re all on the same team. We’re all working together.’” (B Hoch - MLB.com - Jan 26, 2023)
June 2013: The Yankees chose Judge with their second pick in the first round (#32 overall), out of California State-Fresno. And he signed for a $1.8 million bonus.
Jan 10, 2020: Judge and the Yankees agreed to a one-year contract worth $8.5 million,
Jan 15, 2021: Judge and the Yankees avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year contract for $10 million.
- June 25, 2022: The New York Yankees reached a settlement on a contract with Judge for the 2022 season, avoiding arbitration.
Judge will be paid $19 million plus additional incentives, including $250,000 for winning the American League MVP and another $250,000 for winning the World Series MVP.
Nov 6, 2022: Judge elected free agency.
- Dec 7, 2022: The Yankees and AL MVP Aaron Judge have agreed to a nine-year, $360 million deal.
|Birth City:||Linden, CA|
|Draft:||Yankees #1 - 2013 - Out of Cal. State-Fresno|
Judge's Huge 2022 Season:
It was after Aaron returned from an oblique strain that veteran Edwin Encarnacion pulled him aside after a game. Encarnacion noticed how often Judge would hit in the indoor batting cage even during games.
"If I struck out, I'd be in the cage<" Judge said. "Hitting, hitting, hitting. If my swing didn't feel right, I'd be back in the cage. In-game hitting, pre-game hitting, post-game hitting..."
Encarnacion told him, "All those swings you're taking? It's making you tired and it's going to get you hurt. And all you are doing is practicing bad swings. You don't need to take a thousand swings. You just need to take a couple and go out and play. Less is more."
"Once I started learning that," Judge says, "I was like 'okay, that's probably why I'm blowing out muscles.
"I started watching veteran guys. I watched DJ LeMahieu, He'll go in and take five swings, off the tee, five flips, and go out there in the game and go 3-for-4. And that is a lesson for me. It's quality over quantity. It's helped me out the past two years, especially." (Tom Verducci - Sports Illustrated - Sept., 2022) Judge peppers the right-center field gap, hammering anything on the outer half of the plate with authority. He has 80-grade power. And his hit tool is a 50.
He makes baseballs fly far away when it hits the sweet spot. And he is a pure hitter, not just a slugger. He has a simple, flat stroke. And he endeavors to hit the ball gap-to-gap. He has a short stroke for somebody with his kind of power.
Aaron has that valuable power/speed combination. He has hit some massive home runs. But power is almost always the last thing to develop. If his 6-foot-7 frame didn’t give it away, Judge is a physical beast.
"He's similar to Giancarlo Stanton,” one NL scouting director said in 2012. “Big, tall, long limbs, long arms, big power. How much contact he’ll make and how much power he’ll get to is the question.
Judge gets his share of strikeouts—I mean look at the size of his strike zone! But he also walks a lot.
So, "Aaron is not someone who is hacking and swinging hard," one SAL manager said in 2014. "This guy is a hitter first. For a guy who should hit for power like he projects to, the fact he has the hit tool bodes well."
And midway through the 2015 season, Trenton manager Al Pedrique said, "One thing that has impressed me is that with two strikes he doesn’t panic. He doesn’t change his approach, and he doesn’t chase a lot of pitches out of the strike zone. That’s the main reason he is doing well.’’
The Yankees laud Judge for resisting selling out for power and becoming a one-dimensional hitter. He’s got more feel to hit than one would expect for a man his size.
Judge's righthanded swing isn’t short, but it’s not the long, loping version one would expect to see from someone his size. Instead, his stroke is more geared for line drives that sometimes leave the yard.
Aaron towers over everyone on a baseball diamond. And, at 6-foot-7, he is trying to join a small group of extremely tall hitters. Since 2000, there have been six big league hitters who are 6-foot-7 or taller—Ryan Minor, Richie Sexson, Tony Clark, Joel Guzman, Nate Freiman and Damon Minor.
Now, being 6-foot-7 is not a disqualifying trait in a hitter. Dunn, Giancarlo Stanton, and Corey Hart are among the successful 6-foot-6 hitters in the big leagues this century, and it’s really hard to say that an additional inch makes all that much difference.
But yes, there will always be some swing and miss with hitters this big. Scouts have long said that taller hitters are prone to striking out more because they have bigger strike zones, and their long arms make it hard for their swings to be quick and direct to the ball. But in return, tall hitters can generate excellent leverage and often have excellent power.
Judge still has a long way to go to match a Dunn comp. Judge is 22. At that age, Dunn already had 45 big league home runs. But Judge does have an understanding of the strike zone, and his strikeout rate isn’t all that different than what Dunn did as a minor leaguer. And physically both are massive outfielders who, at least early in their career, have some athleticism. (J.J. Cooper - Baseball America - 9/12/2014)
Aaron's monster size grabs the attention of scouts, managers, and opposing players alike. He has prodigious tools to go with his jumbo frame, yet the separating factor in his success may be his short swing for a man his size.
“He is fairly short to the ball for his size,” a pro scout with an NL club said.
Despite his size, Judge works with a swing geared for the gaps, so he isn't swinging for power. He is just trying to drive the ball, stay gap to gap, but if you made a mistake and left it up at all, obviously just the size and bat speed he has, if he puts the barrel on it, it’s got a good chance of going out. (August, 2015)
Judge shows confidence in his ability to work deep counts, drawing his share of walks while also striking out a good bit. Of course, as with most any big-time prospect, Judge has a few warts. Some evaluators wonder if his power is a product solely of strength rather than a combination of strength and bat speed. Others noted problems swinging through sliders and curveballs, particularly early in the count. (August, 2015)
The book on Aaron in 2015: Work him hard inside before finishing him off with soft stuff away. His strikeout rate between Double-A and Triple-A bordered on 27 percent for the 2015 season, which shows he has work to do before his game is major league ready.
Advanced pitchers found holes in his swing with breaking and off-speed pitches. But he is able to make adjustments; and he punishes mistakes. Judge has good bat speed. He uses his strong arms and legs to get his entire body behind his swing. He likes to extend his arms and reach pitches on the outside of the plate. (Oct. 2015)
There are serious questions with Judge’s ability to make contact at the highest levels. He is 6-foot-7 with long arms, which leaves him vulnerable on the inner half.
But during 2016 spring training, Judge made some adjustments to his swing and plate mechanics to better recognize pitches, mostly with a higher leg kick.
"The main thing for me is giving myself an extra second to recognize the pitch and do some damage," Aaron said.
Asked if he is tiring of all the comparisons to Stanton, Judge laughs and says, "Yeah, it's quite an honor. He's one of the premier hitters in the league, but I'm trying to go out there and be the best I can be. I'm not going to be a Giancarlo Stanton, I'm just focusing on what I can control and play the game the best way I can."
Late in the 2016 season, Aaron worked with minor league coordinator James Rowson, trying to simplify Judge's approach at the plate.
“It’s not about making any major overhaul,’’ Rowson said of the first-round pick out of Fresno State in 2013. “He just needs to get back to doing what got him here, and the important thing is not to panic. We know that’s not going to happen because he’s been through this before.”
In 2016, Judge remade his swing after striking out 42 times in 84 at-bats in his big league debut.
“My bat is kind of working, how I see it, like a Ferris wheel instead of like a merry-go round,” Judge said in May 2017. “The past couple years when I started getting bad, I would start rolling over a lot of balls because my bat was like a merry-go-round, it was not staying through the zone. Controlling that (back) hip allows the bat to get through the zone like a Ferris wheel. So my contact point now, if I’m expecting 95 (mph) and a guy throws 98 or 99, my bat is still in the zone and I can drive it to right-center field. Or if I’m expecting a fastball and the guy throws something off-speed, my bat is still in the zone; I can hit something to left field.”
Judge uses a 35-inch, 33-ounce maple bat.
Before Aaron's great 2017, he had to come to the humbling realization that his swing had to change.
“The biggest thing, the way I can explain it, was controlling my back hip,” Judge said in May. “I watched the great hitters. They’re into their back hip, and that’s where the swing starts. They’re in their legs. They’re in that hip. For me it allows me to stay in and through the zone longer. I don’t come around the zone.”
“He’s always been powerful, but I think he’s learning to use his body more efficiently,” said Yankees first baseman Greg Bird, a teammate of Judge’s at every level from high Class A to the Majors. “And then you’re seeing him reap the rewards more than ever.”
“My bat is kind of working, how I see it, like a Ferris wheel instead of like a merry-go round,” Judge said. “The past couple years when I started getting bad I would start rolling over a lot of balls because my bat was like a merry-go-round—it was not staying through the zone. Controlling that (back) hip allows the bat to get through the zone like a Ferris wheel.
“So my contact point now, if I’m expecting 95 mph and a guy throws 98 or 99, my bat is still in the zone and I can drive it into right-center field. Or if I’m expecting a fastball and the guy throws something off-speed, my bat is still in the zone I can hit something to left field.”
The results of Judge’s adjustment were indisputable. Instead of just raw power, he produced game power like never before. “Of course, his power has always been there. He’s the biggest, strongest guy in baseball,” outfielder Brett Gardner said. I think that everybody knows what he’s capable of doing and how far he is capable of hitting a baseball. It’s just all about becoming a better hitter.” (Kyle Glaser - Baseball America - 11/03/2017)
April 2017: Judge enjoyed a month to remember, tying a Major League record for the most April home runs hit by a rookie, with 10.
May 3, 2017: Judge hit his Major League-leading 13th home run in an 8-6 win at Yankee Stadium, becoming the youngest player in history to reach that total in his team's first 26 games of a season.
"I honestly take it one day at a time," said Judge, who added a pair of singles for his first career three-hit game. "I kind of forget what I did the day before. I'm just going in there like it's Opening Day for me. Go out there, just have some quality at-bats, get up five times. Keep having quality at-bats and good things will happen."
The only other right-handed-hitting outfielder to slug 13 homers in his team's first 26 games was Hall of Famer Willie Mays, who did it for the Giants in 1964. (Hoch - mlb.com)
May 31, 2017: Judge joined Mark McGwire as the only rookies in MLB history to hit 17 HRs before the start of June.
June 12, 2017: Judge has already hit a Major League-best 22 home runs in the Yankees' first 61 games—joining Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio as the only Yankees age-25 or younger to hit at least 20 four-baggers before the All-Star break. (Kelly - mlb.com)
July 4, 2017: Judge is so strong that he managed to put a dent in Yankee Stadium with a home run. Not only did it leave the bat at 118.4 mph, but it traveled 456 feet while not getting higher than 59 feet off the ground.
Yes, even Judge's line drives carry 456 feet. Oh, and the ball was hit so hard that it managed to dent the metal above the gate beyond the fence in left-center field. (Chris Landers and Matthew Martell-MLB.com)
With Judge finishing up a jaw-dropping first half, now seems like a good time to compare him to a few of the greatest rookie hitters in baseball history.
There's the Yankee Clipper himself, an All-Star in 1936. There's Fred Lynn, who with the 1975 Red Sox became the first player to win Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in the same year (a feat matched in 2001 by Ichiro Suzuki, a different type of rookie due to his extensive professional experience in Japan). And then there's another Rookie of the Year winner, Mark McGwire, who 11 years before he broke Roger Maris' single-season home run record in 1998 set rookie marks for homers in a season and before the All-Star break.
Each of these four has roots in California. DiMaggio was born there, grew up there, and first signed with the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, who in November 1934 sold him to the Yankees. McGwire, Lynn and Judge all went to high school and college in the state, with the first two playing at USC and the latter at Fresno State. Judge grew up in Linden, Calif., a little more than an hour's drive east of DiMaggio's birthplace in Martinez.
While the draft didn't exist back in DiMaggio's day, each of the other three were high picks. The Red Sox took Lynn 41st overall in 1973, the A's plucked McGwire 10th in 1984, and the Yankees nabbed Judge 32nd in 2013. (Simon - mlb.com - 7/5/17)
July 7, 2017: Judge eclipsed DiMaggio's franchise record for home runs hit by a rookie with his Major League-leading 30th home run in a 9-4 loss at Yankee Stadium, a solo blast in the fifth inning off the Brewers' Josh Hader that landed on the netting covering Monument Park.
"It's pretty special. It's a pretty special name he passed," manager Joe Girardi said. "It's very incredible what he's done in the first half of the season. You talk about the home runs, the walks, the average he's hit for, the defense he's played. It's a pretty special first half." (Hoch - mlb.com - 7/07/17)
"All rise." Again, again and again. Aaron Judge lived up to the hype of his remarkable rookie campaign by slamming nearly four miles of home runs at Marlins Park, including four drives of more than 500 feet, crowning the Yankees' slugger as the newest champion of the 2017 T-Mobile Home Run Derby.
Judge overcame 22 first-round blasts from Justin Bour of the Marlins and a dozen long balls from the Dodgers' Cody Bellinger in the second. Judge slammed 11 homers in the finals to defeat Miguel Sano of the Twins, finishing with 1:53 still on the clock.
"I had no pressure going into it. I'm a rookie," Judge said. "This is my first time doing it. For me, I've got no expectations. I'm just going to go in there and have some fun and see what we can do tonight. It was a blast. I enjoyed every minute of it—watching the other guys swing, coming here early and talking to the media. Everything about today was fantastic." (Hoch - mlb.com - 7/10/17)
August 23, 2017: After setting the wrong kind of history, Judge made it through the Yankees' 13-4 win without striking out. That ended a streak of 37 consecutive games with a strikeout for the rookie slugger, a Major League record.
Before Jacoby Ellsbury pinch-hit for Judge in the seventh inning, Judge had racked up three walks and an RBI single. Manager Joe Girardi said despite the optics of the move to pull Judge from the game, thus breaking the strikeout streak, he simply made the move to get the slugger off his feet with an 11-1 lead at the time.
Though the streak garnered much attention in the media, Judge insisted all along that it didn't bother him.
"Like I said, I don't think about it," Judge said. "I only think about it when you guys ask me about it." (Beery - mlb.com - 8/23/17)
September 10, 2017: Judge launched two towering homers in Yankees 16-7 win over the Rangers, joining Mark McGwire as only the second rookie in MLB history to ever hit 40 home runs in a season.
September 20, 2017: Aaron's two-run home run hooked inside the right-field foul pole and made him just the eighth player in Yankees history to reach 100 runs, 100 RBI, and 100 walks in the same season. It was Judge's first career home run on an 0-2 count; he has now homered on every possible count but 3-0.
September 25, 2017: Never in baseball history has a first-year player hit more home runs than Aaron Judge, who now stands alone among the best rookie home run hitters of all time after New York's 11-3 win over the Royals at Yankee Stadium.
Judge hit two home runs to set the new single-season rookie record of 50, breaking the previous mark set by Mark McGwire in 1987.
September 30, 2017: Judge made history against the Blue Jays when he hit his 52nd home run of the season and 33rd at Yankee Stadium.
According to Newsday's Laura Albanese, Judge passed Babe Ruth to set the single-season franchise home record. ESPN Stats & Info noted Ruth's mark was established in 1921, when the Yankees played at the Polo Grounds.
In 2017, Judge won the AL Silver Slugger Award in the outfield.
April 16, 2018: Aaron may not be able to fully appreciate some of his individual accomplishments at the moment, but his Yankees teammates seem to understand that they have been witnessing something special. Playing in his 197th game, Judge established a Major League record during a 12-1 victory over the Marlins, cracking the 60th career home run to become the fastest player in history to reach that mark in terms of games played.
"It's huge," Giancarlo Stanton said. "He's starting where he finished off last year. Keep driving. He's pushing the envelope for things that haven't been done. It's cool to watch."
The previous record was held by Mark McGwire, who hit 60 homers in his first 202 Major League games with the Athletics from 1987-88. Asked if the accomplishment had any meaning to him, Judge paused and replied: "Not really." (Hoch - mlb.com)
April 22, 2018: This shot marked Judge's 62nd career home run in 201 games played, keeping ahead of Mark McGwire's 1986-88 pace for the fastest to reach the number. Judge was also the fastest to 60 and 61 home runs. McGwire hit his 62nd homer in his 205th career game.
In 2017, Judge hit .205 against curveballs and sliders, going 41-for-200 across the regular season and postseason, with a .425 slugging percentage. He struck out 103 times, a 44.2-percent rate. Judge's struggles reached their most severe in the ALDS, when the Indians exploited him on curves and sliders down and away. In the series, Judge went 0-for-12, with 11 strikeouts, in at-bats decided on breaking balls.
In 2018, the difference has been dramatic. Judge's batting average against breaking balls has shot up to .364 (16-for-44), and he's raised his slugging percentage to .667. Both are top-10 marks in the Majors. He has a lower strikeout rate against curves and sliders, 35.2 percent, and a higher walk rate (18.5 percent in 2018 vs. 13.4 percent in 2017).
Judge has had some big hits off breaking balls. "I think I've kept my same approach," Judge told MLB.com. "The biggest thing is, you don't hit the good sliders, you just hit the mistakes. That's what my thing has always been: Just keep hunting mistakes. Because you never hit a good slider. If someone throws you a good slider, you're not going to hit it. You've got to always hunt those ones that kind of pop up or hang thigh-high or up."
Even if Judge's approach is the same, the execution has been significantly better. He's chased fewer of those unhittable breaking balls and has been more selective in attacking the ones he can get to.
"One thing Aaron is doing, he's just trying to get ready to hit early," said hitting coach Marcus Thames. "When he gets ready to hit early, he can recognize the baseball better. If you're late, you're not going to recognize the pitch and you might go out of the zone. He's getting in the strike zone a lot earlier with his barrel, so he's giving himself enough room for error." (David Adler - MLB.com - May 14, 2018)
Aug 10, 2019: There is something strange going on with Aaron Judge this season.
It’s not that he hasn’t been productive. Despite a left oblique strain that kept him out of action for two months between late April and late June, and a slump that has struck over the past two weeks, the Yankees right fielder still owns a stellar .271/.398/.475 batting line in 61 games played. His park-adjusted 130 wRC+ puts him far above the league average (100). And combined with his strong defense, he has been worth roughly 3 WAR.
This is more about how Judge has produced those numbers. Consider his home run spray chart. Remember, Judge is not a left-handed batter. That backward-looking image is a good representation of Judge’s odd 2019. He’s crushing the ball to the opposite field as effectively as anyone. On the other hand, he’s not pulling the ball with authority. The end result is a Judge that is still a force, but not quite the dominant one who was the MVP runner-up two years ago.
He has left left-field behind. Judge’s SLG by batted ball direction:
2017: .936 to oppo/straightaway, 1.144 to pull.
2018: .840 to oppo/straightaway, .828 to pull.
2019: .912 to oppo/straightaway, .458 to pull.
It’s not just about pitch location. About 36% of pitches to Judge this season have been to the inner third of the zone or inside, well above average (about 32%) for a right-handed batter. About 47% of pitches to him have been to the outer third of the zone or outside, compared to the average of 50%.
The Yankee Stadium factor. But let’s address the elephant in the room. Yankee Stadium has the “short porch,” and its right field seats make for a tempting target. Righties have hit far more most oppo homers over the past five years there than at any other ballpark.
Judge’s opposite-field rate at Yankee Stadium is higher than it is on the road, and seven of his 11 oppo extra-base hits have come in the Bronx. So it may well be that Judge is especially primed to shoot the ball the other way when the short porch looms in right field.
He’s been grounded. Judge is hitting the ball harder than ever this year, and harder than anyone else. He easily leads the Majors in average exit velocity (97.1 mph) and hard-hit rate (58.6%).
Those numbers are only slightly lower when Judge pulls the ball, but that’s not the issue. What does stand out is that Judge has hit about 71% of his pulled contact on the ground—much more than in previous seasons and among the highest rates in the Majors. Yet when Judge hits the ball up the middle or to right, he has put it on the ground only about 30% of the time, below the MLB average.
Grounders, even those hit exceptionally hard, stand little chance of turning into extra bases. And so if Judge isn’t lifting off when he pulls the ball, that certainly helps explain his directional splits.
Yet there is rarely just one factor. Perhaps the oblique injury from earlier this year has had some lingering effect. Judge’s directional output could also be tied to the way he has crushed fastballs this season (.605) and struggled against off-speed and breaking pitches (.309). Or it may be a blip that will work itself out over the next two months.
Whatever is going on with Judge, it has implications for a Yankees lineup that has fellow sluggers Edwin Encarnacion, Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton, and Luke Voit on the injured list. Judge can help make up for those absences, but a renewed ability to drive the ball to all fields would help. (A Simon - MLB.com - Aug 10, 2019)
Aug 27, 2019: A little more than three years since that initial drive sailed over the center-field wall at Yankee Stadium, Judge still only seems to be getting started, as he became the third-fastest player in history to reach 100 homers in a 7-0 win over the Mariners.
"It's quite an accomplishment," Judge said. "Very few guys have gotten a chance to do that, and I'm humbled and honored by that. We've got to keep moving forward."
Feb 5, 2021: Judge and Stanton have both dramatically altered their winter workout programs in hopes of remaining on the field throughout the upcoming season, according to Eric Cressey, the Yankees’ director of player health and performance.
“In both cases, they’ve lifted less than they have in the past,” Cressey said on the YES Network. “Aaron in particular has really taken a heavy interest in a lot of yoga. We have to be mindful of the stresses on guys who are 6-foot-7, 6-foot-8, big dudes who are standing around for long periods of time in cleats. Those are things that normal people don’t encounter.”
Cressey said that Judge has been working with Dana Santas, a yoga instructor who has assisted the club during Spring Training in years past. Luke Voit, Mike Ford, Thairo Estrada, and Nick Nelson are among the other players participating in yoga sessions at the Yankees’ player development complex in Tampa.
“Anytime you see an athlete who has some chronic stuff, there is a perception that they’re not working hard,” Cressey said, referring to Judge and Stanton. “It couldn’t be further from the truth. Those guys are rock stars in every aspect of their preparation, from how they come into the training room to the work they put in in the weight room.”
After being diagnosed with a right rib fracture in March 2020, the delayed season permitted Judge to be in the Opening Day lineup. He was limited to 28 games due to a right calf strain initially sustained on Aug. 11, which he aggravated in his first game back from the injured list on Aug. 26.
Stanton played in 23 games, missing time due to a strained left hamstring, but the slugger was a force in the postseason. Stanton hit six homers in 26 playoff at-bats, driving in 13 runs against the Indians and Rays.
“Prior to Game 5 of the ALDS, he was out doing some sprint work, and it was as athletic as I had ever seen him,” Cressey said of Stanton. “I was confident that he could have gone out to play the outfield for us that night. It was super encouraging.”
The Yankees hired Cressey after a 2019 season in which they set Major League records by having 30 players serve 39 stints on the injured list. Though an overhaul of the strength and conditioning programs was interrupted by the March shutdown, then again by the July ramp-up for Summer Camp, Cressey said that there was improvement made—something he believes will continue into 2021.
“2020 was a little bit of a dumpster fire in terms of Major League Baseball injuries,” Cressey said. “What baseball really learned last year above all else is you can’t do Spring Training in three weeks. There’s a very skill-specific aspect of preparation that takes time for that adaptation to kick in. I’m very confident that baseball understands that now, and regardless of what happens with Spring Training, everything will have a little bit more of a gradual on-ramp.” (B Hoch - MLB.com - Feb 5, 2021) (Editor's note: In 2021, Judge played in 148 games and was on the IL for only a short time in July.)
July 9, 2021: Aaron's ninth-inning double was his 500th regular-season hit, coming in his 506th career game. Judge is the second-fastest Yankee to reach the milestone in terms of games played, behind only Joe DiMaggio (395).
2021 AL Silver Slugger Award - Outfield (Second Win)
After missing nearly a full season’s worth of games (142) across 2018-20, Judge stayed upright in 2021 and turned in a banner campaign, notching 39 homers, 98 RBIs and a .287/.373/.544 slash line over 148 games.
July 29, 2022: Judge set a Yankees record for multi-home run games in a season with nine, breaking a tie with Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Alex Rodriguez and Gleyber Torres. He also became the first player ever to have nine multi-home run games before August.
July 30, 2022: The favorite for the AL MVP, Judge continued to show he can keep pace with legends and everyone else, becoming the second-fastest player in AL/NL history to blast 200 career home runs in the Bombers’ 8-2 victory over the Royals at Yankee Stadium.
“It’s great; a lot of hard work with a lot of people over the years to get to this point,” Judge said. “I’m excited to get that out of the way, plus we got a win, so just keep it rolling.”
Judge’s Major League-leading 42nd home run was his 12th long ball in 14 games, the most in a 14-game span in franchise history. He eclipsed Babe Ruth (41 homers in 1928) for the most home runs ever hit by a Yankee before Aug. 1, amid a surge that puts Judge on track to shatter Roger Maris’ American League single-season record of 61 home runs, which was set in 1961. (B Hoch - MLB.com - July 30, 2022)
As of the start of the 2022 season, Aaron's career Major League stats were: .276 batting average, 158 home runs and 571 hits with 366 RBI in 2,068 at-bats.
Sept. 28, 2022: Aaron Judge hit his 61st home run of the season in front of Blue Jays fans in Toronto, tying Yankee legend Roger Maris for most home runs hit in a single season in the American League.
Oct. 4, 2022: Aaron Judge is the American League’s all-time single-season home run king. The New York Yankees superstar surpassed Roger Maris with his 62nd homer of 2022, a leadoff blast against the Texas Rangers in the penultimate game of the season.
Oct 7, 2022: Aaron Judge and J.D. Martinez had memorable finishes to the 2022 regular season were named AL Co-Players of the Week.
Although Judge recorded only six hits over his final nine games, two of those knocks made baseball history. The Yankees star tied the AL single-season home run record with a two-run shot against the Blue Jays on Sept. 28 and then launched his record-setting 62nd dinger against the Rangers in the penultimate at-bat of his amazing season. This is his third Player of the Week honor of 2022.
- Oct. 18, 2022: Aaron Judge has brought his record-breaking power to the postseason.
The Yankee outfielder crushed his second home run in three games in the second inning against the Cleveland Guardians. His two-out, solo shot off Cleveland reliever Sam Hentges gave the Yanks and starter Nestor Cortes a 4-0 lead in the decisive Game 5 of the American League Division Series.
It was Judge's fourth home run in a winner-take-all postseason game and breaks a tie with Troy O'Leary for the most in major league history. Judge also went deep in the 2017 and 2018 AL Wild Card games (against Minnesota and Oakland, respectively) and in 2020 in the final game of a best-of-five ALDS against Tampa Bay. (Sean Farrell)
- Nov 12, 2022: Judge won his third career Silver Slugger Aaard. Judge -- who is an MVP finalist and won the Hank Aaron Award in the AL -- set an AL record by hitting 62 home runs this season. Judge not only led the Majors in home runs, but he also paced all players in runs (133), RBIs (131), on-base percentage (.425), slugging percentage (.686), OPS (1.111), OPS+ (211) and total bases (391).
Aaron's above-average speed plays well in the outfield, where he grades as a plus defender with intriguing arm strength and carry. He can play center, but he fits even better in right field with a strong arm. He has a 50 grade for his average defense.
Judge has a 60 arm. His throws are accurate. But he did need refinement to his throwing technique and footwork.
He is working on charging balls on the ground, being more aggressive and using better routes and jumps to the ball.
Aaron is more athletic than you would predict if you were just looking at his massiveness. He has improved his footwork, and is in the process of refining his mechanics, so his throws are more accurate. (Spring, 2016)
"He has such grace for such a big man," said Yankees bench coach Rob Thomson, who works with the Yankees' outfielders. "He covers a lot of space, has a lot of wing-span, attacks groundballs well, is an accurate thrower with a plus arm. But the biggest thing about Aaron is he works at it. Works at it in batting practice, reading balls off the bat. I tell our outfielders that is the best drill you can do, and he does it religiously."
"The pitcher is working his butt off and trying to make pitches to get guys out," Judge said. "The least I can do is give 110 percent trying to make an extra play for him." (Castrovince - mlb.com - 5/10/17)
Judge has one of the best outfield arms in MLB, according to www.nj.com. (Mike Rosenstein)
Since joining the Yankees in 2016, Aaron has tallied 23 outfield assists. In 2018, Judge grinned when told that one of his rockets had been clocked at 100.5 mph, remarking that he’d been trying to reach triple digits for some time.
Judge is deceptively graceful. This is evidenced by his toss on May 26, 2018, from the right-field corner at Yankee Stadium. He appeared to be lobbing a throw to the cutoff man, but the ball arrived as a strike at second base, nabbing the Angels’ Martin Maldonado attempting to stretch a single into a double. (Hoch - mlb.com - 5/29/2020)
In 2021, Judge won a Fielding Bible Award for his defensive excellence.
Judge managed to stay healthy all season and flashed the leather more than a few times in right field. He tallied eight assists thanks to an amazing arm, and he posted a +9 DRS. Judge also spent some time in center field and also provided effective defense there.
- Aaron has surprising speed. His exceptionally long strides turn singles into doubles. His speed grades at 50.
Judge routinely turns in home-to-first times of 4.2–4.3 seconds from home-to-first.
2014: Judge is a physical freak. He is not just big, he is actually quick and athletic too. He shows an impressive first burst jump for a slugger and he had an 88% success rate stealing bases in college. He has the wheels to be a double-digit stolen base guy each year.
- Aaron runs real fast once under way.
June 2013: Judge injured his quad before he could appear in a game, missing the season.
July 8-Aug 2, 2016: Judge was placed on the Minor League disabled list due to a mild PCL sprain and a bone bruise on his left knee.
Judge exited a game with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the sixth inning after he dove for a ball in the outfield and later ran to first base on a groundout. The outfielder reported feeling a pop in his knee before exiting. Judge immediately saw a team doctor, and was re-evaluated, when an MRI revealed the injury to his left knee.
Sept 14-Oct 3, 2016: Aaron was placed on the 15-day DL with a Grade 2 right oblique strain.
Nov. 20, 2017: Judge underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder. He is expected to complete his recovery before the start of Spring Training. The procedure involved a loose-body removal and cartilage cleanup.
July 27-Sept 14, 2018: Judge was on the DL with right wrist fracture, a chip fracture of the right wrist (ulnar styloid bone).
April 20, 2019: Judge exited the game vs. the Royals at Yankee Stadium in the sixth inning with a left oblique injury and headed to New York-Presbyterian Hospital for further evaluation and an MRI.
April 21-June 21, 2019: Judge went on the IL with left oblique strain.
Feb 18, 2020: Judge revealed that he has been dealing with a sore right shoulder for two weeks. Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that Judge was recently sent for an MRI that revealed "not much change." But Boone believes that the injury will not impact Judge's availability for Opening Day.
Feb 29, 2020: Boone said that Judge felt discomfort after hitting indoors at Steinbrenner Field, which prompted the Yankees to send him for several tests, including an MRI. The results of those tests were negative, according to Boone, who said that Judge has been scheduled for another examination.
"It was more when he went to hit again yesterday; throwing wasn't an issue," Boone said. "It was more getting through a second day of cage BP yesterday. It just wasn't quite right."
Judge has been proceeding conservatively since aggravating his right shoulder while hitting at the club's Minor League complex earlier this month, in February. Though Judge has continued to perform conditioning and defensive drills, including throwing at distances up to 120 feet, he has not taken outdoor swings since position players reported to camp on Feb. 17.
March 3, 2020: Judge is considered unlikely to appear in the Yankees’ Opening Day lineup, Brian Cashman said.
Judge is continuing to undergo a battery of tests to determine the cause of the discomfort in his right pectoral muscle, and though Cashman said that Judge has been responding well to treatment over the last 48 hours, there has been no diagnosis or set date for him to resume on-field activities.
March 6, 2020: Aaron was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his first right rib that might require surgery. He will be out for at least two weeks. Judge said that he believes the rib injury dates to an attempted catch Sept. 18 against the Angels at Yankee Stadium, which may partially explain why he recently has been mentioning discomfort in his right shoulder and right pectoral area.
March 20, 2020: Aaron said that a CT scan showed “slight improvement” in the stress fracture of his first right rib, and the Yankees slugger expects to have his progress re-evaluated in another two weeks. Judge also revealed that a previously unreported pneumothorax issue has been resolved. The lung issue can occur as a result of a blunt or penetrating chest injury, such as a diving catch in the outfield.
May 14, 2020: Judge has been able to take advantage of extra weeks to rest than he might otherwise have allowed himself. As Judge continues to rehab regularly, Cashman said that he is optimistic the Yankees will have Judge available when action resumes this summer.
July 11, 2020: Judge was removed from the lineup of an intrasquad game at Yankee Stadium due to a stiff neck, according to Aaron Boone, who said he is not concerned that it will present a long-term issue.
“I don't think it's that big a deal. It just locked up on him,” Boone said. “When he woke up, he’d just slept on it a little weird, so he got worked on today. We obviously didn't want to force anything today, so hopefully he can be in there, but we'll just see as long as that stiffness gets out of there.”
The Yankees have said that they expect Judge to be ready for Opening Day, July 23.
July 14, 2020: Aaron is continuing to progress as he deals with a stiff neck that has kept him out of the Yankees’ last three intrasquad games. The slugger appears to be “in a good spot moving forward to be ready to go Opening Day,” according to manager Aaron Boone.
Judge took on-field batting practice and appeared in right field prior to an intrasquad contest at Yankee Stadium. Boone said that Judge has been receiving treatment since he reported the stiffness, prompting his removal from that day’s lineup.
“I do feel like it's a short-term thing that he'll work through,” Boone said. (Editor's note: Judge did, in fact, play on Opening Day 2020. But he was limited to only 28 games that season.)
Aug 14-25, 2020: Judge was on the IL with a right calf strain.
Aug 27-Sept 16, 2020: Judge was on the IL with a right calf strain.
March 29, 2021: Judge is expected to be on the Opening Day roster, even though he did not appear in New York's final two Spring Training games. As it turns out, Judge is simply under the weather and following MLB protocols. According to Yankees GM Brian Cashman, Judge is going to be just fine; it turns out the pollen in Tampa got the best of him.
- July 16-27, 2021: Judge was on the IL.