By Steven Marcus
Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge in the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium on June 9, 2017
California, here he comes.
Aaron Judge is in his home state, where the West Coast will get a closeup of baseball’s hottest attraction. For Judge, who started the day with Triple Crown statistics of 21 home runs, 47 RBIs and a .344 batting average, the trip will represent a homecoming and a chance to see his family and friends.
The AL East-leading Yankees play three games in Anaheim against the Angels, followed by four in Oakland with the A’s.
“I’m excited,’’ Judge said Sunday. “My first road trip last year was to California, now it’s more exciting. They’ll be more people back home, friends from college, it’ll be good to see family and friends who haven’t seen me play for a while.’’
Mention his adoptive parents, Wayne and Patty, and Judge smiles. He was born on April 26, 1992, in Linden, California, about 85 miles from Oakland. He was adopted the following day.
“Some kids grow in their mom’s stomach, I grew in my mom’s
heart,’’ Judge said. “She’s always showed me love and compassion ever since I was a little baby. I’ve never needed to think differently or wonder about anything.’’
Judge, whose adopted brother, John, is an English teacher in Korea, did have a childhood curiosity.
“I think I asked questions when I was 10 years old,’’ he said. “ ‘I don’t look like you mom, I don’t look like you dad, what’s going on here?’ ’’ he asked.
“They told me,’’ of his adoption, he said. “That was it. I said, ‘OK, can I go outside and play now?’ It wasn’t a big deal.’’
While some adopted children may yearn to know their biological parents, Judge said “that has never’’ crossed his mind. “I can’t really relate to it. I have one set of parents, the ones that raised me. That’s how it is.’’
Judge, 25, does understand the longing other adoptees may feel.
“For them, I tell them to be open talk to their [adoptive] parents about the situation,” he said, “what happened, maybe get some answers about it.”
Judge said he may one day seek to help children who are in need.
“At one point in my career, I’m going to start a foundation be a part of something like that,’’ he said.
According to a 2015-16 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are 427,000 children in foster care, 111,820 of whom were waiting to be adopted.
“The orphan population is so large worldwide that we didn’t even know what it is,” said Chuck Johnson, president and CEO of the National Council for Adoption.
Sheila Riccardi, communications director for the Children’s Aid and Family Service of New Jersey, said, “We would love the attention of a huge sports star. Most of the children who come here have suffered a lot of trauma and abuse. It’s not like they were born and they get adopted. Always, something bad has happened for them to be with us. Stories I hear are absolutely tragic. Most of our kids that are in need of a home, they’re older. Kids in foster care by the time they’re nine, they are considered old. So we do work hard to find families.”
Judge’s parents attended a recent series in New York and will be at all of the games on the coast. “I think my dad bought MLB Network,’’ Judge said. “They’re watching every game. My mom does a lot of yard work. She’ll be out in the yard listening to the game.’’
When Judge calls his parents, baseball isn’t the primary subject — his 495-foot home run on Sunday against the Orioles included.
“We don’t talk about it much to be honest,’’ he said. “They say ‘good game,’ stuff like that, but that’s the last thing I want to do when I call my parents is to talk about more baseball. I want to know how they’re doing, how’s the dog doing, what did you do today. ‘’
Judge’s muted reaction to hitting the longest homer in the majors this season merely corresponded to his motto on Twitter: “If what you did yesterday still seems big today, then you haven’t done anything today!’’