The year is 2013, the New York Yankees are on the clock in the first round of the 2013 MLB draft with the 32nd overall pick. The commissioner Bud Selig announces the next Yankees draft pick. They have chosen a 6 foot 7 inch 3 sports star from Fresno State University, center fielder Aaron Judge. Who would have thought that one day he would be the leading candidate to perhaps one day follow in the footsteps of Don Mattingly and future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter as captain of the most historic franchise in sports history the New York Yankees.
Three years later, on August 13, 2016, Aaron Judge made his Major League Debut and in his 1st at bat hit a gigantic homerun into monument park where ironically one day he might have a plaque himself there. The hype was real, the buzz was real, New York was envisioning the next great Yankee. What happened next tho? The season did not go well for Judge, not only did he get hurt early into his career and missed the rest of the regular season after his call up, but, he also struggled mightily striking out 50% of the time which resulted in fans saying he was a bust and the hype was unwarranted and shattered with boos from Yankee Stadium crowds. What happened next? The arrival of Aaron Judge to the New York Yankees, their fans, and the city.
The very next season Judge won the starting RF spot over Aaron Hicks in Spring Training. What Judge would do in this season was a remarkable feat. He carried a rebuilding New York Yankees team in the 1st half of the season to a record that no one saw coming quite yet. He won the HR derby in a landslide, hitting majestic shot after shot in Miami. He was awarded Rookie of the Year unanimously with hitting the most homeruns in MLB history by a rookie with 52, and oh yeah, he was also the runner up as the American League Most Valuable Player all in his rookie season.
Over their iconic history, The Yankees have had some amazing ballplayers from Babe Ruth, to Mickey Mantle, to Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, but what makes Aaron Judge special isnt just his immense talent with superhuman power or the ability to hit majestic home runs, steal bases, play gold glove defense or any of those things, it’s how he represents himself and the team, much like Derek Jeter did when he was named the captain of the New York Yankees in 2003. He would go on to be the longest captain in Yankees history until he retired after the 2014 season. In my opinion, much like Derek Jeter, there’s a certain feel to Aaron Judge that you just embrace as a teammate.
You see, this is New York where fans have a love/love and hate/hate relationship. They love you when you’re performing and hate you when you’re not. That however was different for guys like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. They both got shattered with boos at times, but there was no hate at all for them among fans. They were Yankees at heart and New Yorkers through and through. They knew how to represent the Yankees and with honor, prestige and class. Aaron Judge not only hits majestic homeruns, provides gold glove defense in RF, steals bases, helps the Yankees win ball games, but he does it much like Derek Jeter did, with pure class and always with a smile on his face and no matter what he always gave 100% whether it was a routine ground ball to 2nd base, or a homerun that travels 495 feet when he put his head down and just simply ran around the bases refusing to show up the pitcher.
Sure, this might seem like I’m putting the horse before the wagon, because Aaron Judge is only 2 seasons into his Yankee career. There’s also the belief of General Manager Brian Cashman who said that Derek Jeter should be the last ever Yankees captain. The thing is tho, when Brian Cashman said that, did he know what he had in Aaron Judge? Did he know he had the next not only great Yankee, but most beloved one since Derek Jeter? At the ripe age of 25, Aaron Judge has the ability to even get better as he’s still 4 years away from his prime baseball years. New York is clearly behind the gentle giant, there is a Judge’s chamber in Right Field at Yankee Stadium because he is so adored by fans and the Yankees, and if he continues to improve even more then one day, like Don Mattingly and future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, New York wont just be saying “all rise the Judge is in session, no, they’ll simply be calling him Aaron Judge, captain of the New York Yankees.