He tries to deflect attention day after day, more comfortable discussing teammates than his own feats. But when told of Derek Jeter’s recent praise, Judge seemed touched.
”It’s incredible, especially a guy I looked up to for years growing up,” Judge said Wednesday. ”To hear him say that, it’s special. It’s humbling.”
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New York’s 6-foot-7 rookie sensation hit a 435-foot drive for his major league-leading 13th home run , singled to start the go-ahead rally and had the first three-hit game of his big league career, helping the Yankees rally from a four-run deficit to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 8-6.
He was selected AL Rookie of the Month for April earlier in the day. With a .330 batting average and 27 RBIs, he has emerged as a face of the retooling Baby Bombers.
There is a loud crack when balls hit his 35-inch, 33-ounce Chandler bat, and often they go far. Judge runs well for his 280-pound size, and he has made diving catches and thrown out runners. Given his aggressive style, he wore ice wraps around both knees when he spoke after his latest home run.
Crowds buzz at Yankee Stadium when he walks to the plate. Already some fans are greeting him with chants of ”M-V-P! M-V-P!”
Yet, Judge says he remains able to walk around the city unfettered. He’s been asked to pose for selfies more often than he’s stopped for autograph requests.
”People are busy. They’ve got stuff to do,” he said. ”They’ll be like, `Hi, how you doing? I’ve got to get to work or do something.”’
Jeter, the face of the Yankees’ teams that won five World Series titles during his career from 1995-2014, will be honored during the next homestand. His No. 2, the last of the team’s single digits, will be retired on May 14 before a Mother’s Day game against Houston, and a plaque in his honor will be unveiled in Monument Park.
Judge could not be farther away from Jeter in uniform – he wears No. 99, only the third Yankees player after Charlie Keller in 1952 and Brian Bruney in 2009 – but he has the same sense of modesty.
”The good thing about him is you can tell from his demeanor and his attitude that he wants to improve, he wants to be better and he handles himself the right way, not only on the field but off the field,” Jeter said in a video interview posted this week on the team’s web site. ”So I’m a fan of his.”
Judge, who turned 25 last week, got to speak with Jeter during the Yankees’ ”Captain’s Camp” at their Tampa, Florida, complex in February 2015.
”He was big into, `Just stay even-keeled. You’re going to have those times where you’re going to go 0 for 20, 0 for 25, 0 for 30,”’ Judge recalled. ”’You’ve got those months where you can’t get out and the ball looks like a watermelon, but just try to stay even-keeled and just stick to the process. It’s a long process and if you have a bad April or a bad May, you might bounce back in June or July. Just keep the pace. So focus on winning. Do whatever you can do to help the team.”’
Jeter remembered that ”Aaron was always listening.”
”I’m happy to see that he’s having success,” Jeter said. ”You want him to continue to have success because, you know obviously the more success you have, the higher the expectations are.”
Judge debuted with the Yankees on Aug. 13 and homered off Tampa Bay’s Matt Andriese in his first at-bat. He had four home runs but also 42 strikeouts in 84 at-bats before he strained an oblique muscle on Sept. 13 – ending his season and preserving his rookie status.
He still is getting used to his new home.
”I check out the city. I’ll walk around, get some breakfast, check out the spots,” he said. ”The best advice I got was, if you’re looking for somewhere to eat, just either you go right or left, if you don’t find anything, just turn around, go to the next way and just keep walking.”
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