Aaron Judge was faced with quite the challenge as he stepped up to the plate in his first-ever MLB Home Run Derby Monday evening. His opponent, Justin Bour, put up the highest first round score with 22 homers — plus, Bour had the hometown support of the Miami Marlins fans.
However, the New York Yankees’ breakout star rose to the occasion, smacking 23 home runs to advance in the contest. He ultimately hit 47 home runs during the evening — including four of them over 500 feet — to win.
The crowd, who booed Judge in the pregame introductions, weren’t the only ones cheering him on by the end of the competition. Other players and celebrities took notice of the 25-year-old outfielder.
Yankees pitcher Dellin Betances’ priceless reaction to Judge’s power went viral, while many other teammates and even his opponents in the Home Run Derby tweeted their praise.
He’s even gained the attention of celebrities and legendary players. During a recent trip to New York, Jennifer Lopez and boyfriend/former Yankee Alex Rodriguez had to get a pic with the 6-foot-7 superstar.
However, Judge stayed humble after his big win.
“It was a blast. I enjoyed every minute of it,” Judge said after the contest, according to USA Today. “Watching all the other guys swing. Coming here early, talking to the media. Everything about today was fantastic.”
Patty and Wayne Judge cheered on their son from the stands. Joel Sherman of the New York Post asked Patty Judge what it was like to see her son becoming a household name in the sport.
“My eyes tell you what a parent’s pride is,” she replied, crying. “My son’s actions tell you more about him than I can tell you about him. I’m speechless.”
Patty and Wayne, retired schoolteachers, adopted Judge the day after he was born in April 1992. It wasn’t until he was in elementary school that he questioned why he didn’t look like his parents.
“I think it was like, ‘I don’t look like you, Mom. I don’t look like you, Dad. Like, what’s going on here?'” Judge said, according to MLB.com. “They just kind of told me I was adopted. I was like, ‘OK, that’s fine with me.’ You’re still my mom, the only mom I know. You’re still my dad, the only dad I know.”
He continued, “Nothing really changed. I honestly can’t even remember too much, because it wasn’t that big of a deal. They just told me I was adopted, and I said, ‘OK, can I go outside and play?'”
Judge was picked by the A’s in the 31st round in 2010, but opted to further his education first. The California native played three sports in high school, but he had to choose between baseball and football in college, according to Sports Illustrated. He ultimately accepted a baseball scholarship to Fresno State, where he was named 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.
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In 2013, Judge was selected by the Yankees at the No. 32 spot in the draft and moved through the ranks.
Judge made his first major league appearance in 2016, and he had people talking right away. The athlete hit a home run in his first-ever at-bat, giving him and fellow newbie Tyler Austin back-to-back slams.
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However, Judge ended 2016 with a lackluster batting average of .179 — a reminder he keeps in a note in his phone to this day.
Yet halfway through the 2017 season, things have changed. The Yankees star leads the majors with 30 home runs, putting him on pace to establish new rookie records in homers, walks, slugging percentage, OPS and total bases.
Judge will appear in his first MLB All-Star Game Tuesday evening, making him the first Yankees outfielder to start since Curtis Granderson in 2012.
But we have a feeling it won’t be his last.