Back in late June, the Yankees were playing the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards when their right fielder, Aaron Judge, began playing soft toss with a young fan wearing his number before the Orioles came to bat in the bottom of the fourth inning.
You couldn’t have missed it. The scene was on an endless loop, even getting quality time with Lester Holt on “NBC Nightly News.”
This wasn’t the first time Judge had done this. He did the same thing with another young fan when the Yankees were in Seattle last year.
And Judge isn’t the only Major Leaguer who occasionally accommodates a young fan this way. Max Scherzer, Brandon Drury and Mike Trout are among those who have made a kid’s day recently.
But what that scene in Baltimore seemed to communicate is there is something special, very genuine about Judge. He seems to be a gentle giant at 6-foot-7, 282 pounds. And if everything continues to stay on path, there is no reason not to believe that Judge someday, perhaps very soon, be named the 16th captain in Yankees history.
The Yankees do not always have a captain. Consider there was a 37-year gap between Lou Gehrig and Thurman Munson, who wore the “C” for the first time in 1976. And it took eight years for Derek Jeter to succeed Don Mattingly. Since Jeter retired in 2014, the Yankees have been in no hurry to replace him.
Funny story: Sometimes it happens very quickly. Babe Ruth succeeded Roger Peckinpaugh as Yankees captain in 1922 and immediately lost the job when he jumped into the stands to pummel a heckler.
That would never happen with Judge, 25. He was adopted the day after he was born by a couple of California teachers, Patty and Wayne Judge. And you can tell how much is parents have impacted him.
Judge’s demeanor makes him a worthy candidate. He is one of the media’s go-to guys in the locker room, just like Jeter was. And if you have heard Judge answer questions, you’ll note his approach closely resembles Jeter’s. He gives the media what it needs, but not a syllable more.
For instance, Jeter was very careful to keep his personal life quiet. You never saw his picture on the gossip pages of the New York tabloids with a woman on his arm, unlike Alex Rodriguez, who was regularly featured. And Judge has tried to do mimic Jeter’s style in terms of his personal life, as well.
And you know what, if it wasn’t for the New York Post recognizing Judge with Jen Flaum at the U.S. Open last autumn, no one would have known they were an item.
And if it wasn’t for the New York Post, we wouldn’t have known that soon after he took up with Jen Selter, once rumored to be dating Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks.
And if wasn’t for the New York Post, we probably would have had no idea he is now dating a former high school classmate, Britt Hodges, who immediately went on Instagram to confirm it.
Some things about New York you just can’t control, even if you try really hard.
Then there is Judge’s prodigious power. Or as Yankee broadcaster John Sterling likes to say after a Judge homer, “All rise, here Comes The Judge!”
The Yankees selected Judge in the first round of the 2013 Draft and three years later he hit a homer in his first Major League at-bat off Tampa’s Matt Andriese, one hitter after Tyler Austin did the exact same thing. Then Judge hit another in his second game. So immediately you realized Judge was a guy who knew how to play the big room.
Then there was last season, his official rookie year. He was an All-Star and won the Home Run Derby, the first rookie ever to do so. He ended the season with 52 homers, breaking Mark McGwire’s rookie record on 49, smashing Joe DiMaggio’s Yankees record of 29.
He hit 33 homers at Yankee Stadium, the most any Yankee had ever hit at home, breaking Ruth’s record (32) set at the Polo Grounds in 1921. He set another rookie record by walking 127 times and it was no surprise that he was the AL’s unanimous Rookie of the Year and the runner-up to Houston’s Jose Altuve for AL Most Valuable Player.
Judge finished 2017 with a .284 batting average, 154 hits, 114 RBIs, a .422 on-base percentage, a .627 slugging percentage, a 1.069 on-base plus slugging and led the AL with his 52 homers.
And his production has carried into this season. He hit his 60th career homer in his 197th game on April 16, smashing McGwire’s record of 202 games. He currently has 25 homers, 60 RBIs and it hitting. 281.
But as you might remember, he also struck out eight times in nine at-bats in a doubleheader against Detriot – the first MLB player to do so since statistics like that were first recorded in 1910. After leading the majors with 208 last year, he already has 124 this season.
Hey, you can’t have everything in life. But he looks like a captain to us.