Yankees' Aaron Judge Called "New Derek Jeter" By NBA Star, Reacts Just Like Captain Would

Max Goodman

He may not have the official title just yet, but to many – including other superstar athletes – Aaron Judge has assumed the role of captain within the Yankees' organization. 

In an Adidas Instagram live on Thursday, Portland Trailblazers' star Damian Lillard told Judge he thinks the right fielder is "the new Derek Jeter." Judge was humbled, but proved Lillard's point by answering just the way The Captain would have.

"He paved the way for sure," Judge responded, beaming upon Lillard's initial comment before focusing on his reply. "That's the thing that I've been fortunate to be with the Yankees, the legends we have coming in and out of that building during spring training during the season. The Jeters, the Mariano Riveras, Andy Pettitte, Ron Guidry, Reggie Jackson. It's no joke, you feel that presence."

Judge is entering his fifth season at the big-league level – his seventh playing professional baseball. Whether or not he's named captain, Judge assured his goal is to lead the next generation of Yankees by example and instill in them the values he's learned since being drafted by the Bombers in 2013.

"As a player, I wanna be that same presence," he explained. "I want to set that path for the guys coming up behind me that are in rookie ball, that are in low-A. This is how we do things here, man. If you want to win, you want to be champions, you have to put the team first, you play hard every day and you do it for the team.”

Not only has Judge displayed the traits necessary off the field to be a good leader, but he has ascended to stardom in the Big Apple courtesy of his performance between the lines. 

In 2017, the right fielder won the American League Rookie of the Year Award, crushing 52 home runs and nearly earning Most Valuable Player honors. He's a career .273 hitter, has launched 110 home runs since his debut in 2016 and is known for solid defense in the outfield.

Since his rookie season, however, injuries have kept the slugger sidelined and unable to play to his potential. Judge appeared in just 112 games in 2018, 102 this past season and is presently nursing a stress fracture in his first right rib, diagnosed at Yankees' Spring Training last month. 

READ: How latest test results on Judge's ribs show if the star will be ready for Opening Day

Had the 2020 regular season started on time, Judge would have missed time this spring as the Bombers wait patiently to see how the right fielder's rib continues to heal. The silver lining in the COVID-19 pandemic, however, is more time for Judge to recover while no games are being played. 

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For more from Max Goodman, follow him on Twitter @MaxTGoodman. Follow ITP on Twitter @SI_Yankees and Facebook @SIYankees

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