The New York Yankees knew exactly what they were getting when they named Aaron Judge their 16th official captain following the nine-year extension he signed in December.
Judge, whose captaincy was dyed in his wool from the day he was drafted in 2013, has been the Jenga piece upon which this team has relied during their most recent run of dominance (a run, as all aggrieved fans would note, that has yet to be capped with a championship).
Anthony Rizzo made Judge’s importance to the infrastructure extremely clear when he, too, was on the verge of hitting free agency this offseason, a course that he and the Yankees mutually agreed to correct. Rizzo returning at the start of the offseason seemed to be a subtle forebear of a Judge deal still to come. He’d advocated for his superstar teammate to get paid his worth, which he argued extended well beyond the diamond — where, again, he literally hit 62 home runs in a very recent baseball season.
It’s always been the little things with Judge. The helping hand he’s long offered to trade deadline acquisitions and non-roster invitees. The willingness to be the face of the franchise while bearing the brunt of the franchise’s pain — not a fun position to hold while the Astros still maintain the upper hand. The way he showers in “MVP” chants while still carving out time to make a child down the right-field line feel valued.
Right on cue, during an offseason where he could be attending the Golden Globes or finishing off a follow-up piece with TIME Magazine that declares he always dreamed of being a Yankee actually, Judge showed up at the team’s complex in Tampa this week to greet international prospects Osiel Rodriguez and Felix Neguéis.
Yankees Captain Aaron Judge met amateur signings in Tampa, FL
Now we just need Judge to greet recent addition Brandon Mayea, and his work will be done … for the week.
Rodriguez, a promising Cuban right-hander, made his pro debut in 2019, as did Neguéis, who signed in the summer of 2018. Neither is a top-tier Yankees prospect. Neither is purported to be Anthony Volpe. Neither is atop the current totem pole.
And yet, there was Judge, taking the time to embrace them either before or after a workout at the team facility (OK, check the sweat on the shirt, it was probably “after”).
It’s one thing to be a team’s best player, as well as a team’s front-facing icon. It’s quite another to embrace that duty and project that kindness down to every level of the organization.
If you listened to Rizzo in the fall, though, you know nothing changed when Judge became a made man. His personality just became rubber-stamped.