Yankees’ new captain Aaron Judge promises to build a championship legacy


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The long wait is over and Aaron Judge is officially the Yankees’ captain from 2023 onward. At a Wednesday news conference that witnessed a formal announcement of Judge’s nine-year, $360 million contract, the Yankees named him the team’s new captain.

Aaron Judge is the 16th captain in the team’s history. Derek Jeter was the last captain, from 2003 to 2014.

The power hitter told that he wanted to keep making a name for himself in New York and that the decision to stay came after he talked to his wife, Samantha, and his parents.

“We came to the decision that was in our hearts, which was that we wanted to be in New York,” he said.

After hitting an AL record of 62 home runs last season, the slugger signed the biggest contract in Yankees history. Even though the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres made him good offers, Aaron Judge chose to go back to the team that picked him in the first round of the 2013 draft. He said:

“It goes without saying what an honor that is. Look back at the list of, you know, Thurman Munson, Lou Gehrig, Ron Guidry, Willie Randolph, Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly. That’s a pretty good list right there. Not only great baseball players but great ambassadors of the game and great ambassadors of the New York Yankees. This is an incredible honor that I don’t take lightly.”

“I’m going to continue to try to be the same leader that I’ve been in the past six years, continue to lead by example and I know there’s a couple more responsibilities with this, but I’m here to embrace every single obstacle and continue to lead this team and this city to not one, but multiple championships down the road.”

Aaron Judge said he needed to consider other teams in free agency but he did not want to leave New York.

“In my heart, I knew where I wanted to be, but this process was a valuable lesson,” the slugger said. “It helped me come to a clear answer that I belong in New York.”

Aaron Boone, the manager of the Yankees, said that he first noticed Aaron Judge’s leadership skills when he was an ESPN baseball analyst and saw “the gentleness” in the way the slugger talked to people and how they acted around him.

“In a lot of ways, it was an obvious choice,” Boone said. “He’s been developing into that the last couple of seasons. Now that he will be in pinstripes forever, the natural next step is the captaincy.”

The Steinbrenner charm offensive

“It’s hard to picture the Yankees without Aaron,” Hal Steinbrenner, the owner of the Yankees, said. After the contract was signed, Steinbrenner asked Aaron Judge to be the Yankees’ captain. The player was so shocked by the offer that he couldn’t speak.

Once the regular season ends, Steinbrenner met with Aaron Judge in Tampa, Florida, and told the slugger that he had the desire to see him with the Yankees for life. Steinbrenner called Judge while he was on vacation in Italy to try to close the deal. “I told him you’re not a free agent; you’re a Yankee,” Steinbrenner said.

Steinbrenner said that when Aaron Judge was close to making a decision about his future, he pulled over on the side of a highway in Italy and called the superstar outfielder, who answered at 3 a.m. in California.

“I wanted to know what was important to him and his family,” Steinbrenner told about that episode.

Captaincy offer surprised Aaron Judge

Aaron Judge said that he was talking with Steinbrenner at 3 a.m. PT in California when the idea of becoming the Yankees captain came up. “He shot me a message earlier about kind of what’s the holdup? You know, what’s it going to take to get this to the finish line,” the power hitter told.

“So we hopped on a quick call and he was busy and he said that it doesn’t matter the time, you give me a call and we’ll work some things out. And then at the very end, he spoke about how Thurman Munson was his favorite player and just how important the captain and that honor is to not only him and his family, but the team and this organization and kind of presented with me.”

“I was kind of lost for words,” Aaron Judge added. “I don’t think I said anything for, it felt like five minutes. It was probably only a couple of seconds and I was just really taken back because that is such an incredible honor.”

All Rise promises to leave a legacy

About 30 minutes before Aaron Judge was honored to become the Yankees’ 16th, he was taken to an office on the suite level of Yankee Stadium to sign his nine-year, $360 million contract. He sat at the desk that used to belong to the team’s main owner, George M. Steinbrenner.

As Aaron Judge read the papers, he fidgeted with the pen in his right hand, and the room fell into an awkward silence. The reigning AL MVP took notice and said, “Wow, it’s so quiet.” General manager Brian Cashman, who was sitting to Judge’s right, said, “Yeah, it’s like one of your at-bats.” He was referring to Aaron Judge’s attempt to break Roger Maris‘ record for most home runs in a single season in the American League.

That broke the ice, and by the time one of Judge’s 62 home runs this past season left the park, the paperwork was done. Now, Aaron Judge will focus on the challenges and requirements of his new contract, including his responsibilities as the club’s leader, who is expected to bring the team its 28th World Series title in franchise history.

The player told:

“It means a lot to me, because coming up through the Yankees organization, this is all I’ve known. My blood, sweat, and tears have gone into one thing, which is to play for this team and play for this city and these fans. Knowing that I get to continue to do that and do it in one city, words can’t really describe it. It’s such an incredible feeling.”

Aaron Judge was excited to see how the team shaping up with new additions this winter, especially the arrival of starting pitcher Carlos Rodon and expressed satisfaction that the Yankees were close to winning a championship.

“There’s a lot of unfinished business here in New York,” he said. “I’m looking forward to finishing that business.”

Now Aaron Judge will focus on winning a championship for the Yankees for the first time since 2009 and cementing his place as one of the team’s all-time greats, likely destined for Monument Park and maybe even Cooperstown.

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