TORONTO — Even watching him for a few minutes during spring training his freshman year, Aaron Boone knew Aaron Judge was special. So when he was named manager of the Yankees, Judge was one of the first people he sought out.
“I was actually with ESPN in 2017 at spring training,” Boone said ahead of Tuesday night’s game against the Blue Jays. “I was in Tampa, just there to play a day with the Yankees and I just remembered that I wanted to take him for a bit, so I paid attention to him and watched how he interacted with people. . I saw how he treated people. And then, I have to live this experience. That’s how he is when you see him with fans or children, he is like that every day. He is very consistent with who he is. I remember having a long chat with him on my first day of spring training in 2018. Before camp opened. We came really the first time I met them at a level extended. We had a long conversation. You know and from that point on he’s just someone I’ve grown to respect and appreciate who he is and how he approaches things.
The judge has earned his place in the clubhouse and on the field. He came into Tuesday night’s game still looking to hit his 61st homer of the season, which would tie 61-year-old Roger Maris’ American League and Yankees single-season homer record.
The slugger has now played 26 games since reaching No. 60 a week ago against the Pirates. He’s only had two 30-plus no-hitter streaks this season. There was a 41 slab onset drought in August and a 30 slab onset drought in April. It’s the second-longest game drought of the season for Judge, who has gone nine hitless games this season. He reached base safely in 13 of those 26 plate appearances with eight walks.
Judge has reached base in 25 straight games, hitting .430/.561/.907 during that streak.
And with a .314 batting average, Judge still holds a narrow lead over Xander Bogaerts (.313) and Luis Arraez (.313). He’s in contention to be the first Triple Crown winner since 2012. Judge’s 128 RBI is 11 more than Jose Ramirez’s 117 for most in the AL.
Judge has just three home runs in 66 at-bats against the Blue Jays this season.
There’s a little less pressure on Judge here at the Rogers Center. As the Blue Jays look to clinch a playoff berth, Yankees fans who have traveled here hoping to see history are outnumbered. Back in the Bronx last week, Judge had roars every time he walked to home plate and the stadium went eerily quiet with every pitch. Fans groaned every time he didn’t homer – including when he doubled. Monday night there were boos when he was walked, but it was almost normal when he hit and Blue Jays fans went crazy.
The judge downplayed the spotlight on him.
“Well, nothing like Yankee Stadium. That’s for sure,” Judge said. “I know Roger Center here gets pretty loud and pretty crowded, but nothing like Yankee Stadium. a normal game. For me. It’s like the last two days.
Boone isn’t surprised at how Judge handled this. He saw him become a great leaguer and a confident leader.
“I’ve seen him grow…Even in 2018 he was a big voice in the room,” Boone said. “Guys look up to him and obviously it was a year where [Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia] were the established leaders of the team. But, even think that they realized who Aaron was not just as a player but as a person and they were going to give him some kind of team. I’ve seen that evolve over the years and, and I think this year took on an even bigger voice than last year, the year before.