ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — New York Yankees star Aaron Judge was back in the stadium where he hit his record 62nd homer, and the slugger’s biggest memory of that night really wasn’t the ball disappearing into the left-field seats.
“Relief that it was over,” Judge said Thursday before his first game in Texas since breaking Roger Maris’ single-season American League mark last October in the next-to-last game of the season.
There was also the celebration with teammates in the clubhouse afterward, and a team gathering at the hotel later that night to mark Judge’s record and Gerritt Cole breaking Ron Guidry’s franchise single-season strikeout mark in that same game.
“Stand up in front of the team and address them and talk to them and say your thoughts and what’s on your mind, it’s always a special moment,” Judge said. “I think that’s more important to me than anything that kind of really happened on the field that day.”
Fittingly enough, Cole started for the Yankees on Thursday when they opened a four-game series against the AL West-leading Rangers.
Manager Aaron Boone fondly recalled the reaction of Judge’s teammates when he led off the nightcap of a doubleheader with the homer. That was the 55th game in a row Judge had played during his chase for the record, and came in the sixth game after his 61st homer matched Maris’ AL mark that was set in 1961.
“I thought it was a homer off the bat, but it wasn’t like an absolute no-doubter, so you’re watching it, and then see it go over the fence and see his teammates react,” Boone said. “It was one of those great moments that I’ll experience in my career to get to be here and be a small part of it and witness it.”
Judge got one more at-bat after surpassing Maris, and didn’t play the regular-season finale the next day.
“I was kind of excited about getting him a day off finally too,” Boone said.
Judge was in the lineup playing right field for the opener against the Rangers, a day after the reigning AL MVP had three hits, drove in three runs and jammed his right hand on an awkward stolen-base attempt at Minnesota on his 31st birthday. Judge said he was all good, and Boone said he had no concerns after talking to trainers and the slugger.
While Judge acknowledged the 62nd homer in Texas will always be a great memory, he said it’s not something he has reflected on too much. He went from the home-run chase to the playoffs last October, and then free agency in the offseason before signing a $360 million, nine-year contract with the Yankees.
“I’ve got this season to deal with,” said Judge, who went into Thursday’s game hitting .267 with six homers and 14 RBIs. “We’ll reflect when I’m about 40 or 41, and then we’ll talk about what it means.”
Asked what he learned about himself during record chase last season, Judge initially repeated the question.
“What did I learn about myself … that’s a good one,” he said. “I haven’t really thought about that, you know, because I was so focused on what I’ve got to do for the team and focus on today. You know, block out the distractions. I really didn’t think about myself too much.”
Even when all of the attention was on him.
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