Anthony Rizzo’s Aaron Judge bonding is special due to their dogs

Anthony Rizzo works out as his dog Kevin watches at spring training in Mesa, Arizona.

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Anthony Rizzo didn’t exactly recruit his friend Aaron Judge to stay with the Yankees, but he worked hard to do so. It was his close friendship with the AL MVP and the bonding between their dogs that might have played a part in keeping the slugger in the Bronx.

During an interview on “The Book of Joe” podcast, Anthony Rizzo confirmed:

“I did send him a couple of pictures of our dogs together, because we both have dachshunds, saying we can’t break them up,” Rizzo said. “But it was just more encouraging of, ‘What’s gonna be best for you and Sam?’”

Earlier this season, Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo wore similar dachshund themed outfits to spring training, and Judge’s dachshund is called Penny while Rizzo’s is named Kevin. Rizzo is also remaining in New York, so Penny will continue to have her furry companion around for at least a few more years.

Anthony Rizzo signed a two-year, $34 million deal early in free agency to stay in The Bronx. He didn’t try to sell his friend on the idea, though. Instead, all he wanted was for Aaron Judge to do the right thing.

“It was really, ‘What’s going to make you happy? Is it going to be A, B, C or D? Is that here, there or somewhere else?’” Rizzo said. “And just kind of being more of a friend throughout the process than being a teammate.”

A few weeks after Anthony Rizzo decided to stay, Aaron Judge did the same. He signed a record-breaking nine-year, $360 million contract to stay with the Yankees. The deal was made official on Wednesday, the same day Judge was named the 16th captain in Yankees history after hitting 62 home runs and coming close to winning the Triple Crown.

Even though he was one of Aaron Judge’s friends, the first baseman didn’t know anything about the slugger’s decision-making process. Like fans, the media, and front offices in all of the major leagues, Anthony Rizzo was also worried about the AL MVP’s final choice.

“Thinking in that zero hour when everything hit the fan, I was a little bit worried like everyone else,” Anthony Rizzo recalled. “But also, saying, ‘You have to do what makes you happy and what’s going to be what’s ultimately best for you.’”

It was something they had talked about weeks before when Anthony Rizzo was thinking about his future as a free agent. The lefty hit 32 home runs in 2022, which was tied for his career high. He also hit well at Yankee Stadium and is still one of the best first basemen, so he probably would have had options elsewhere in the league.

“I had some conversations with Aaron Judge, [to] see what he was thinking, obviously,” Anthony Rizzo said. “[Wife] Emily and I, we decided our top priority was to stay in New York and if that was an option early we would jump on it as long as everything fit right and it did and we’re pumped.”

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