Judge rules Derby demolition Yankees slugger launches missiles in dominating All-Star showcase
MIAMI — New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge keeps the only piece of motivation he needs on his phone.
It’s right there on his notes app, always atop the list for quick access. He looks at it every day and said he’s done so for months, letting it serve as his perfect provider of perspective.
The message: .179 — a nod to what he hit when he debuted with the Yankees last season. That seems unfathomable today.
The 6-foot-7, 282-pound Judge leads the majors with 30 home runs and is a serious Triple Crown contender in the AL with a .329 average and 66 RBIs at the midseason break.
And the massive guy who wasn’t even a lock to make the club out of spring training is set for his All-Star debut on Tuesday night at Marlins Park.
“It’s motivation to remind me to not take anything for granted,” Judge said, as he sat on the warning track on Monday and explained why he keeps the reminder of 2016’s struggles with him at all times.
“This game will humble you in a heartbeat, so I just try to keep going out there and play my best game every day, because I could hit .179 in a couple weeks.” Seems unlikely. After saying that he just wanted to put on a show for the fans, Judge slammed nearly four miles of home runs to win Monday’s Home Run Derby at Marlins Park — including four that soared more than 500 feet.
Judge prevailed after over- coming 22 blasts from Justin Bour of the Miami Marlins in the first round and a dozen long balls from the LA Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger in the second. He then slammed 11 homers in the final round to defeat Miguel Sano of the Minnesota Twins.
“I love this. I’m just trying to soak in the whole moment right now,” Judge said. “This is an incredible experience, and I love it.”
It’s motivation to remind me to not take anything for granted.”
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees slugger
He could have hit one out of Marlins Park — yes, completely out of the building — in batting practice, but the ball struck the steel retractable roof, 550 feet from home plate.
Judge will bat third for the AL on Tuesday, meaning his first trip to the plate will come in the top of the first against NL starter Max Scherzer. And Scherzer sounds eager to check out the phenom.
“I’ve seen it from afar, the year he’s had so far,” said Scherzer, the Washington Nationals’ ace.
“He’s obviously been the best hitter in the American League. I think they will all agree with that. I enjoy facing the best. It’s what you look for.”
A year ago, Judge was still a month away from his bigleague debut. He homered in his first two games with the Yankees, and ended up with seven hits in his opening five games. He was an instant smash. That is, until he wasn’t. Those seven hits in five games were followed by eight hits — total — in his remaining 22 games.
He finished with nearly three times as many strikeouts (42) as hits (15). He simply didn’t look ready.
Look at him now: All-Star, likely rookie of the year, and maybe the MVP.
Judge is roughly the same build (a bit taller, a few pounds lighter) as JJ Watt of the NFL’s Houston Texans. There’s no other outfielder in the big leagues right now listed anywhere close to his weight. And of the 19 players who appeared in the final NBA game of the season — Golden State’s title-clincher over Cleveland — only six are taller than Judge.
He’s not just big, either. The man can move.
“I’m jealous,” said San Francisco catcher Buster Posey, who at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds looks boyish next to Judge.
“I was thinking about that the other day. I was watching their game and saw him moving around in right field and was thinking to myself how impressive that is. It’s pretty incredible how athletic he is.”
Judge has already set the Yankees record for home runs by a rookie, topping a guy named Joe DiMaggio. His batting average is better than Derek Jeter’s was when he won Rookie of the Year in 1996. Lou Gehrig had 68 RBIs as a rookie; Judge is only two shy of that total.
When a name is listed alongside DiMaggio, Jeter and Gehrig already, something special is quite likely happening.
Judge watched the All-Star Game last year on television; he was with the Yankees’ triple-A affiliate in ScrantonWilkes Barre at the time.
He might not see another All-Star extravaganza on TV again anytime soon.
“Can’t really describe it, to be honest,” Judge said. “I still don’t believe it. It’s every kid’s dream ... and I’m getting a chance to live it right now.”
Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees follows through on a blast that traveled more than 500 feet en route to winning Monday’s All-Star Home Run Derby at Marlins Park in Miami, Florida. The 6-foot-7, 282-pound Judge leads the majors with 30 round-trippers.