It seemed as if Aaron Judge was kind of the forgotten man entering 2017. All the hype surrounded Gary Sanchez, and as spring training progressed, Greg Bird stepped into the spotlight and NYC tabloid headlines. However, now that the season has started, Aaron Judge is front and center.
Not only is Judge helping the Yankees win ballgames, he’s winning over Yankee fans with each passing day. Whether it’s his play on the field or his postgame interviews in the clubhouse, there’s something familiar about his demeanor. For the first few weeks, I’ve been trying to pinpoint what’s so familiar about it and one name has continuously popped in my head.
Now, before you yell through the computer at me and say “BUT NO ONE IS DEREK JETER”…. I get that. I know that. But Judge is cut from the same cloth, and I’m beginning to notice it more and more as he comes through our tv screens on a regular basis now.
Judge, like Jeter, is quick to deflect any talk or praise about himself. He immediately mentions the team as a whole, or someone else who might’ve had an impact on the game.
Oh, Judge went 2-3 with a 116 mph go-ahead line drive up the middle, and then hit a home run against the Rays later in the game? He doesn’t want to harp on that. How about Jordan Montgomery, the guy who’s been here for five minutes and made his first MLB start which helped keep the Yankees in the game?
Or how about that play in Tuesday night’s game against the White Sox when Judge beat out a groundball for an infield hit with two outs that scored Headley from third. Is it fun for you to get a chance to show off your speed?
“I was just thinking about getting Headley in. My previous at-bat I came up with a runner on third and I didn’t get the job done. All I was thinking about was getting that run in.”
See a snippet from Judge’s postgame interview from Tuesday here.
Judge is unselfish, he’s humble and he can handle himself in front of the NY media. Sound familiar?
Even Judge’s mannerisms are similar to Jeter’s. The wry smile when he’s asked a question that tries to get him to talk about himself. The way he touches his face when responding to a question. It’s like if Jeter gave acting lessons.
Now, a lot of this likely stems from the Yankees’ Captain’s Camp which is held every year before spring training; Judge attended in 2015. Some of the organization’s top prospects attend the camp which aims to teach them how to be great ballplayers on the field and how to be great people off it.
But one particular instance that directly involved Judge and Jeter caught my eye, and it happened in 2014 when the two were in the same trainers’ room during spring training:
“Words can’t describe how valuable that time was with [Jeter],” Judge told the Post & Courier of South Carolina. “It was almost a blessing in disguise getting hurt and going through rehab with him. You don’t want to be hurt, you want to be playing, but a chance to spend some time with him and learn from him, I know it’s going to help me down the road.
With a new era of Yankees baseball upon us and Yankee fans thirsting for a homegrown player to attach themselves to, Judge seems to be a popular choice.
It’s easy to see why.