A’s general manager Billy Beane, left, and Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge.
By Brendan Kuty
NEW YORK — If you step on it, it’s only an hour-and-a-half drive fromAaron Judge‘s hometown of Linden, Calif., to Oakland.
That short trip was a factor among a few that could have deprived theYankees from their new face.
When the A’s selected Judge in the 31st round of the 2010 draft, he gave serious consideration to signing with them, he said before Friday’s game against Oakland at Yankee Stadium.
“There was a thought that maybe I could do this out of high school,” Judge said.
Fortunately for the Yankees, Judge passed on the opportunity.
And after three years of starring at Fresno State, New York nabbed him with the 32nd overall pick — and a $1.8-million signing bonus — in the 2013 draft.
All he’s done since then is become the 6-foot-7, 270-pound symbol of the youth movement that’s changed the complexion of the Yankees.
So far this season, the right fielder is far and away the favorite for the American League Rookie of the Year and he’s in the MVP conversation. He’s smashed an MLB-leading 15 homers with 30 RBI, a .315 batting average, a cannon right arm and disarming, easygoing personality that was on display on the “Tonight Show.”
But if not for a few priorities, Judge could have been doing it all while wearing green and yellow.
No. 1, Judge said, was that as an 18-year-old, he didn’t feel wasn’t prepared.
“I kind of knew right away that I wasn’t ready physically and mentally to go out in the real world and play professional baseball,” he said.
No.2? His parents, Patty and Wayne, and his brother, John, are teachers. He liked the idea of college. They did, too.
“They said, ‘This is your decision. You’re 18. We don’t want to influence your decision at all. But if you want to ask for our opinion, we’re here for it,'” Judge said.
“So, obviously, at 18, I said, ‘What do you guys think? I’m kind of leaning on you guys a lot and my agent. So, what do you think?’
They leaned toward college.
“‘You could go there for a couple of years. See how that is. You could get drafted again,'” Judge said his parents told him. “‘But you might as well get started on your education, something to lean back on.’
“They were a big influence on that.”
And No. 3? Staying close enough to home was big for Judge at the time. The drive between Fresno State’s campus in Fresno, Calif., is just a little more than two hours from Linden.
“I wanted to stay on the West Coast,” he said, “be close to home, be close to family.”