Judge rules Derby de­mo­li­tion Yan­kees slug­ger launches mis­siles in dom­i­nat­ing All-Star show­case

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

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.”

ROB CARR / GETTY IM­AGES / AFP

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.

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