Who is Aaron Judge? What you need to know about the Yankees’ rookie sensation
A monstrous rookie season has rocketed Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge into the national spotlight, but there’s plenty about the 25-year-old that sports fans across the country don’t know. On the field he’s an All-Star, off the field he’s living out of two suitcases in a hotel in Times Square. The California native and adopted son of former teachers starred at Fresno State before spending just under four seasons in the minors. His older brother, John, is also adopted and teaches English in South Korea. To get you up to speed on all things Aaron Judge, here are all the important details to know about this budding superstar.
Age – 25 years old
Born on April 26, 1992, Judge was adopted the next day by Patty and Wayne Judge. Judge never had any contact with his biological parents. He grew up in Linden, California, a small agricultural town two hours from San Francisco, and his parents taught in San Joaquin County. Judge manned first base and pitched as a young baseball player.
Body mass – Huge
Listed at 6’7” and 282 pounds, Judge looms over the competition and has the highest body mass of any position player in MLB history. Just ask Red Sox slugger David Ortiz: “Look at Judge. Look at him. That’s scary, man. That’s the scariest thing I’ve ever seen.”
College – Fresno State
A three-sport star in high school, Judge faced a decision between playing baseball or football (as a tight end) in college. There were a few small schools that offered scholarships for him to play both, but he ultimately accepted a baseball scholarship to Fresno State. As a Bulldog, Judge was a Freshman All-American and named to the All-Mountain West Conference team all three years. He helped lead Fresno State to appearances in the 2011 and 2012 College World Series.
Uniform – No. 99
Judge rocks the rookie number that was given to him during spring training 2016. He previously said he would prefer to wear either No. 44 or No. 35. Both are unavailable—No. 44 was retired by the Yankees in 1993 to honor Reggie Jackson and No. 35 has been worn by pitcher Michael Pineda since 2014. Pineda can become a free agent after the 2017 season, but Judge may not be keen on switching anymore. He recently said No. 99 has grown on him.
Pro career – 32nd pick in 2013 MLB draft, majors debut 8/13/2016
Judge was picked by the A’s in the 31st round in 2010 but passed on the opportunity to go pro and was selected by the Yankees at No. 32 in the 2013 draft. There are 29 teams out there kicking themselves for missing out on a future superstar. Judge, who received a $1.8 million signing bonus, didn’t play a minute of the 2013 season because of an injury. He steadily moved through the system and was chosen to represent the Yankees at the 2015 All-Star Futures Game. He reached AAA in late 2015 and received the call to the majors in August 2016. Judge’s start in the big leagues was anything but impressive, as he struck out almost half the time before an injury ended his season. Then 2017 happened.
Salary – $544,500
Judge, who is under team control until 2022, is earning just over league minimum ($530,000) this year. He’s due a minimal pre-arbitration raise due next year. Within the next few years, though, the Yankees may work on a long-term deal for Judge, using his far-off free agency as leverage for a more team-friendly contract.
By now, you’ve probably seen Judge’s 495-foot masterpiece—the deepest home run in the history of new Yankee Stadium. The rightfielder has also become famously known for the exit velocity off his bat, which measures how hard a player hits a ball. Through early July, Judge holds the four hardest-hit balls of the 2017 season, according to MLB.com’s Statcast.
The hype – Real
Judge has essentially guaranteed he will be part of the American League MVP discussion for the rest of the year. He holds the league-lead in home runs, and could be on his way to becoming only the second player in MLB history to capture the single-season home run crown during a rookie campaign. If he does that, he’d join Mark McGwire, who recorded 49 in 1987. The Yankees phenom is also a very real Triple Crown threat and has the numbers piling up for a truly historic season. He's making franchise history, too, tying Joe DiMaggio's team record for single-season home runs by a rookie ... on July 5. Reality check: Sure, slumps can happen, but no sign of that yet for the 25-year-old. Only time will tell.
1. He set the Linden High record for touchdowns as a wide receiver and scored 18.2 points per game as a basketball center. The Ringer has described him as “a big breakfast (away) from being the size of an offensive tackle.”
2. His shoe size? 17.
3. Before arriving at Fresno State, he was selected by the Oakland A’s in the 31st round of the 2010 amateur draft. While he said he gave it serious consideration, growing up in a family of teachers helped guide his decision to attend college.
4. He’s caused some redecorating in Yankee Stadium. The Judge’s Chambers, a three-row, 18-seat section in right field, was created in honor of the rookie. Featuring some wood paneling, the section bustles with rabid fans decked out in black robes and foam gavels every home game. No joke.
5. He said that he’d love to start a foundation to help children in need at some point in his career.
On why he hasn’t looked for an apartment yet: “I don’t want to put all my cards that I’m going to be in New York and then I go to Triple A. Maybe next year, if everything goes well.”
On being adopted: “Some kids grow in their mom’s stomach; I grew in my mom’s heart. She’s always showed me love and compassion ever since I was a little baby. I’ve never needed to think differently or wonder about anything.’’
On New York City, the day before he was drafted in 2013: “It’s too busy, seems hectic. I’m not sure I could ever live here.”
The verdict – Stay tuned
Judge’s numbers are staggering, but history says it's impossible to sustain his torrid hitting over a full season. While his stats should return to the realm of average, his entertainment value (and marketability) is through the roof. No matter how the rookie star continues to develop, all eyes are on Judge.