Former Bulldog and current New York Yankee right fielder Aaron Judge broke the MLB record for rookie home runs when he struck his 50th of the season on Monday.
Judge hit two home runs against the Kansas City Royals, tying and breaking the 49 home runs Mark McGwire hit as a rookie in 1987 with the Oakland Athletics.
“It’s been an incredible ride this whole year,” Judge told reporters after the game. “I can’t thank my teammates enough and this organization for putting me in this position. I’m blessed to be here, blessed to get a chance to play this game every day. It was an incredible feeling.”
Judge hit a high fly ball to right field in the third inning for No. 49, tying the record. He broke it in the seventh with a moonshot to left field off of Royals pitcher Trevor Cahill.
His record home run was met with the cheers of fans after he rounded the bases and returned to the dugout.
His teammates prodded him to go out for the first curtain call of his career.
“They told me, ‘You gotta go out there. You gotta go out there.’ My first curtain call – I hope it was a good one I guess,” Judge said.
He said he got the baseballs back and will probably give them to his parents for all the sacrifices they’ve made for him throughout his life.
The rookie slugger surged to start the season, hitting 30 home runs in the first half. His production waned throughout much of July and August as he hit only 10 home runs. But once the calendar flipped to September, Judge got back on track and has hit 13 home runs through Tuesday for the month.
Judge said that he didn’t make any mechanical changes to his swing during his slump and credited his teammates for helping him get through the rough patch.
“They kept pushing me, kept motivating me. ‘Hey man, you’re going to get out of this. It’s baseball. Keep doing your thing,’” Judge said.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters after the game that he had a good feeling about Judge after watching his first at-bat of the game. He said that Judge’s record of 50 home runs is incredible.
“You think about the runs that he’s scored – the runs that he’s driven in,” Girardi said. “He’s played every day. He’s in the conversation for the MVP candidate. Not only Rookie of the Year, but the MVP candidate.”
Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia echoed Girardi’s thoughts to reporters after the game, saying that Judge deserves to be in the MVP conversation “1,000 percent.”
“It’s been amazing just to watch what he’s done and how he’s carried this team,” Sabathia said. “Through the ups and downs, he’s always been the same. That’s the biggest key I think.”
Judge said he isn’t focusing on the MVP conversation, even though the talk is heating up.
“I haven’t really thought about it, just like the record. I don’t try to think about that, especially with what this team’s got going on with this playoff push and trying to win a division. That’s more important to me right now. I’d rather be in a good position in the playoffs and holding up a World Series than [an American League] MVP trophy at this moment.”
Through Tuesday, the Yankees are 88-69. They sit in second place in the AL East, but have already clinched a spot in the postseason, meaning they will at least play in the wild-card game.
Judge has a chance to win the World Series in his rookie season, and he is honored to be compared with the great players in the Yankees’ history.
“If you look back at the history of the Yankees and all the greats that have played and put on the pinstripes, it’s extraordinary,” Judge said. “Just getting the chance to play one game with the Yankees is quite an honor – just to have your name with those greats is something that as a kid I never dreamed of.”