Aaron Judge’s captaincy has galvanized the Yankees

New York Yankees captain Aaron Judge

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Gerrit Cole went into the offseason hoping that Aaron Judge hadn’t played his last game in pinstripes, just like everyone else in the Yankees’ world.

But the free agency was always risky, and the star player says he felt “a little uneasy” when rumors flew that the slugger was headed to the West Coast. Cole knew what was going on between Aaron Judge and the Giants because he had talked to Brandon Crawford of the Giants, who is also his brother-in-law.

“It’s clear that he won over the Giants. Surprise, he makes everyone like him,” Cole said. “According to Brandon, the meeting went well. I tried to ignore the noise, but it was pretty loud. I was as worried as the rest of us for a moment.”

As the Yankees’ players got ready to report to George M. Steinbrenner Field for their spring training camp, it was a relief to have Aaron Judge with them. Only after the power hitter signed a 9-year, $360 million contract, they were sure that he did not belong to the Giants, the Padres, or anyone else.

Aaron Judge is probably going to be a Yankee for the rest of his life, going to Monument Park and maybe even Cooperstown. He was also named the 16th captain in the team’s history and his time as the captain began as soon as he steps into the spring training camp.

“He’s here now,” manager Aaron Boone said. “He knows, without a doubt, this is now his home — and, in a lot of ways, his team. I don’t think you’ll see that big of a change in the person, who he is, and how he goes about things, but I do think there’s that incremental step of leadership that he assumes responsibility [for]. He takes a lot of pride in that.”

Aaron Judge is the reigning American League Most Valuable Player. He made history by breaking Roger Maris’ 61-year-old single-season AL home run record and led the Majors in runs, RBIs, OPS, and total bases. Still, the AL MVP feels that he didn’t reach all of his goals last year and wants to achieve them in 2023. Aaron Judge told Jon Heyman of The New York Post, “I missed an A couple of marks; hopefully, we hit these marks this year.”

This has alerted his teammates about the intentions of their captain and they are happy to join him in the Yankees’ quest for their 28th championship.

Aaron Judge is the Yankees captain.

Aaron Judge’s impact inside the clubhouse can’t be measured by statistics alone.

“There was a lot of attention on him, but it still felt like it was all about the team somehow,” said closer Clay Holmes. “I think it just shows how he’s able to lead guys. There was a sense of, ‘This is us going out there.’ It was fun for everybody. I felt like we were all a part of it, and I think that speaks to how he goes about his business and treats people.”

Even though he was born in Linden, California, Aaron Judge lives in Tampa during the offseason. He made the perfect use of it and worked out at the Yankees’ player development facility, hitting the ball with DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and others before the formal spring training began.

Added reliever Michael King: “When everyone finds out you’re on the Yankees, their first question is, ‘What’s Aaron Judge like?’ He’s unlike anybody I’ve ever met because he’s such a superstar, but he treats everyone like they’re the star. I remember I got called up in 2019 and didn’t really know anybody. He came up to me in the trainers’ room and said, ‘About damn time you’re here, Kinger!’ It made me feel so good about myself. I absolutely love that about him.”

Aaron Judge and Derek Jeter
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Aaron Judge had a chat with Derek Jeter, who was the Yankees’ captain before Judge, asking him how he led the team from 2003 until he retired at the end of the 2014 season. He has already made it clear that he expects to have new “responsibilities to my teammates, my fans, and the media,” but that his day-to-day preparation won’t change in a big way.

Boone said that he thinks Aaron Judge is ready for any job that comes with the title.

“He’s been one of the main leaders on our team now for a number of years,” Boone said. “He’s always one of those guys that I talk to, to confide in when we’re considering different things. I’ll go to him with certain things that I’m thinking about, especially big picture with the team.”

Few players in the league could make as much of a stir online as Aaron Judge. Fans looked at each of his movements. However, the team’s most famous player has reached that level. But from what everyone says, Judge is still calm, steady, and focused, just like he was in 2017, his first full season in the Major Leagues.

According to pitcher Lou Trivino: “He was already the captain. No one was like, ‘Oh, Judge a captain? Never thought of that.’ In my mind, it was just a formality. He’s a very genuine guy; he cares more about just himself. He’s the guy you want on your team, not only because of his talent but his character.”

“He won’t change at all,” Jose Trevino, the Yankees catcher, said. “He will be the same person. He will be in charge of us. He will be in charge of us. And we’re excited about it.”

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