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 on 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.
Q&A following debut season: Judge sat down for a question-and-answer with Record Editor Mike Klocke. (Feb. 2017)
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: We'll get to your first at-bat later. But before that, 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 (Evan) 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 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 (clubhouse attendants) 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.
Rat you served as the Yankees' clubhouse dee-jay. That you livened things up a bit with your music.
Judge: (Laughing) 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.
Aaron has a powerful bat. His 10 home runs in April 2017, which tied a rookie record for the month, can attest to that. But his personality tells you something different.
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 early 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 -- a player whose ceiling had seemed somewhat limited (ironically) by his tall body, ample strike zone and huge strikeout rate in his small big league sample last season -- 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, 2017 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 Yankees sensation 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 MLB 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 Award 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 would be his occupation 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.
"Cash [Yankees general manager Brian 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 Kahnleand 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.
Another superstition: Judge 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," Judge 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: Aaron 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 '16 and '15 (his rookie campaign). MLB and the MLBPA have released these rankings since '10.
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)
October 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 Aaron 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 Kenesaw 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.
November 2017: Judge was named the 2017 winner of the American League's Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award. He was the runner up in the MVP award to Jose Altuve
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. Aaron 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)