Yankees left fielder Aaron Hicks (left to right), right fielder Aaron Judge and second baseman Starlin Castro celebrate a 1-0 shutout of the first-place Toronto Blue Jays in a game at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 15, 2016.
By Randy Miller
NEW YORK — Yankees rookie Aaron Judge, all 6-foot-7 of him, towered over a group of reporters during a before-BP interview at his new Yankee Stadium locker Monday, then again after a 1-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.
This big boy already has become the flavor of the month to local media, and things just might stay this way for a long time because his first three days in the big leaguers perhaps was the opening chapter of something very special.
Starlin Castro showed us in April that a great first three games as a Yankee can lead into an average season, but Castro isn’t built like Judge, who is so big (275 pounds of muscle) and so thick that he looks like he can post up LeBron James.
And we’ve already seen how far Judge can hit a baseball in his first big-league plate appearance. That laser to dead center in the second inning Saturday against Tampa Bay might have rolled all the way to Queens if it hadn’t smashed high off the batter’s eye.
From there, Judge went deep again Sunday against Tampa Bay, then he hit another rope Monday, this one a double to right-center off knuckleballer R.A. Dickey that plated the only run of the game in a win over the first-place Blue Jays.
Overall, Judge is 5-for-10 with two walks in 12 plate appearances for a .500 batting average and .583 on-base average. And let’s not forget his very first big-league impression, his banging up against the right-field wall to make a terrific running catch before his first at-bat.
Along the way, Judge already has made some history, too.
Judge has an extra-base hit in his first three MLB games, a feat not accomplished by Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra or any other Yankee … ever!
“It’s quite an honor,” Judge said, “but I’m trying to do a job out there right now and I’m not too worried about that.”
Judge also is just the second Yankee since 1981 to have an RBI in his first three MLB games, joining Hideki Matsui (2003).
“Just trying to go out there and do the job,” Judge said again.
Judge started making history with his first homer, which followed Tyler Austin homering in his first big-league at-bat. Teammates never had done this in the same game, and here Austin and Judge were doing it in the same inning back-to-back.
Austin, who sat out Monday’s game after 3-for-8 in his first two, looks like he might be a nice player for the future, too, but Judge has the potential to be a star, maybe a guy who will bash 40-to-45 homers season after season in his prime.
“If I can stick to my approach and get the barrel on the ball, I feel good things will happen,” Judge said.
We’ve seen it.
Judge is going to strike out a lot because he has a very long swing that no hitting coach ever fully will fix, but he’ll hit mistake pitches and some good ones a long, long way.
Judge is so strong that – who knows? – maybe we’ll see a day when he does the unthinkable and launches one into the fourth deck at Yankee Stadium.
For now, he’s just a 24-year-old rookie having a great first week in the majors, and, boy, this has to be fun for Yankees fans, many of whom were screaming for management to get him here months ago.
He felt ready before getting the call-up, too.
“That’s the good thing about our minor-league system,” he said. “They’re always kind of prepping us for our first day in New York. So I feel like we’ve all kind of been ready for a while.”
These last three days have been a blast for Judge, who by the way says he’s been walking the streets of Manhattan without being recognized.
How is that possible?
“I’ve been walking pretty fast,” Judge said with a smile.
Judge already is walking fast as a big-league toddler, too. That makes you wonder if this coming out party is the beginning of something … something in which he’ll be part of a next-generation core that leads to more championships for baseball’s winningest franchise.