Yankees expect captain Aaron Judge’s first game to become a spectacular treat

Yankees captain Aaron Judge had a historic 2022 season.

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Captain Aaron Judge looks confident to make his leadership felt. Yankees fans are excited to see Anthony Volpe‘s Opening Day debut, and it looks like the top prospect is ready to shine. But the Yankees as a team are more excited about their season opener on Thursday afternoon against the Giants at Yankee Stadium for another reason. It will be Aaron Judge’s first regular-season game after he became the 16th captain in Yankees history.

“This is going to be special,” Aaron Judge himself said. “Get a chance to play my first Opening Day as the captain, and getting a chance to play against a great organization. We’re going to have some fun.”

According to left-hander Nestor Cortes: “Yankee Stadium is going to be rockin’. Everybody’s going to be excited. I feel like the fans are eager to watch us play, and obviously, excited to see Volpe and Judge. It’s going to be a fun time.”

Since Aaron Judge’s free agency dominated the sports news last offseason, this story hasn’t gotten as much attention as it used to. This is because Volpe’s rise has been the main topic of conversation around the team this spring. But Aaron Judge and the rest of the team know how important it is for him to be their captain. Since Derek Jeter retired in 2014, the team didn’t have a captain.

Aaron Judge got the title in December when he signed a free-agent deal with the Yankees for nine years and $360 million keeping the power hitter in the Bronx for the next ten years. He joined a small group of Yankees giants, such as Jeter, Lou Gehrig, Ron Guidry, Don Mattingly, and Willie Randolph, who had also been given the job. Aaron Judge said again on Tuesday that he won’t wear a “C” patch on his jersey, just like Jeter, Don Mattingly, and all the other Bronx Bombers captains before him.

“We don’t need all that,” Judge said, shaking his head.

Aaron Judge at Yankee Stadium on December 22, 2022.
Instagram/ thejudge44

Still, few people have taken on the role after a better year than Aaron Judge. In 2022, he hit an American League record 62 home runs and won AL MVP by a wide margin. This was possibly the best “walk year” of all time. Aaron Judge hit .311 and led the majors in almost everything else, including RBIs (131), OBP (.425), slugging (.686), OPS (1.111), OPS+ (211), total bases (391), and runs scored. He was on the verge of free agency for the first time (133).

Aaron Judge, of course, did not leave, returning to the Yankees with “unfinished business” after short free-agent stints with the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres. The fact that his inaugural captaincy game will be against the Giants, who he grew up cheering for, adds another element of drama to an already memorable Opening Day showdown between two of baseball’s most historic clubs.

Aaron Judge said that he was aware of the scheduling issue throughout the offseason decision-making process.

“I thought, ‘Someone is messing with me,’” Judge quipped. “Yankee fans do a great job every Opening Day. We’re all excited to get back to the city and get back to the fans. We’ve got a great team here.”

Aaron Judge’s captaincy has also boosted the Yankees’ morale to a new level.

Cole is happy to see Aaron Judge on his side

When asked on Tuesday if he was worried about facing Aaron Judge on Opening Day, Gerrit Cole, the best pitcher for the Yankees, shook his head and smiled.

“I almost got close to thinking maybe that could happen,” Cole said. “But I pulled myself back off the edge.”

Cole no longer needs to be worried about any of that. He is signed up until 2028, and Aaron Judge is until 2032. The duo seems to be looking for March 30, when they will together start the season for the fourth time, and after strong springs, they both seem more than ready. Aaron Judge didn’t get a hit in his two at-bats on Tuesday, but in 16 games this spring, he hit .350 (14-for-40) with two home runs.

Cole and Cortes with Yankees slugger Aaron Judge
AP

“He’s so impactful, you’re just excited to anticipate what he’s going to do,” Cole said. “He might hit four homers, ya know?”

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