How Aaron Judge became the next Yankees captain – Trending News

How Aaron Judge became the next Yankees captain


NEW YORK — Aaron Judge was at his parents’ house in California, just a few hours away from boarding a plane to Hawaii, when he picked up his phone and made the call. It was 3 a.m., and Hal Steinbrenner was on the other line.

It was Dec. 7, and Judge had just spent the day flying from his home in Tampa, Fla. to San Diego, Calif., where the Winter Meetings were being held, to speak with a couple of other teams about potential long-term contracts. Once he wrapped up in San Diego, he flew to his hometown of Linden, Calif. and reached his parents’ house around 2:30 a.m. Thirty minutes later, Judge was on the phone with Steinbrenner, who was vacationing in Italy at the time. 

Steinbrenner was the starter and closer of the nine-year, $360 million deal that essentially ensured Judge would remain a Yankee for the entirety of his baseball career. The first half of that middle-of-the-night call was the clincher that got Judge to remain in pinstripes; it turned out that all Steinbrenner had to do was increase his offer from eight years to nine. That extra year stopped Judge from going any further with the San Francisco Giants; at least one other team offering a similarly enormous contract for the 2022 American League MVP.

But the second half of that 3 a.m. call was what rendered Judge speechless. Once the finish line on the slugger’s contract was crossed, Steinbrenner finally asked Judge what had been on his mind for some time: “How would you like to become the next Yankees captain?”

“I was at a loss of words,” Judge said at the podium of the Yankees’ press conference room on Wednesday morning. “I don’t think I said anything for — it felt like five minutes, but it was probably only a couple of seconds. I was pretty taken aback because it’s such an incredible honor.”

After hanging up the phone with Steinbrenner, Judge shared the news with his wife, Samantha, and despite how late it was, he went into his parents’ bedroom to wake them up. “I think there’s something you’ll wanna hear,” Judge told them. The Judge family celebrated for just an hour before Judge and Samantha drove to the airport to catch a 7 a.m. flight to Hawaii to celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary. That first day, they “sat on the beach and did nothing,” Judge said.

“We relaxed a little bit and just enjoyed it because it was a whirlwind of a year,” Judge said. “Everything moves fast and then you have the free agency process on top of that. It was good to get away for a little bit knowing that we got the deal done. Now let’s have the one vacation of the year and get back to work.”

When Judge returned to New York, the passing of the torch awaited him. Early Wednesday morning, when he walked into the owner’s suite at Yankee Stadium to officially sign his nine-year contract, Judge was surprised to see the most recent Yankees captain in the room. Judge had no idea Derek Jeter would make the special trip to the Bronx from his home in Florida, the expenses of which were paid by Steinbrenner, to be a part of the captaincy announcement. Former Yankees captain Willie Randolph was also in attendance at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.

Judge was named the 16th captain in Yankees franchise history, joining a distinguished list that includes Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly, Randolph and Jeter. 

“This is an incredible honor that I don’t take lightly,” Judge said of being named captain. “I’m going to continue to try and be the same leader that I was for the past six years. Continue to lead by example. I know there’s going to be a couple of more responsibilities that come with this. But I’m here to embrace every single obstacle and continue to lead this team and lead this city to not one, but multiple championships down the road.”

Throughout Wednesday’s news conference, it was easy to see the resemblance between Jeter, the Yankees’ Hall of Fame shortstop, and Judge, the organization’s bright and talented home-run record-breaking slugger. Both Jeter and Judge are superstars. Both Jeter and Judge are leaders. Both Jeter and Judge place winning above everything else. Both Jeter and Judge are the face of the Yankees franchise. And beginning Wednesday, both Jeter and Judge know what it feels like to be named captain. 

But the distinctions between Jeter and Judge were also palpable. There was Jeter, sitting one seat away from Judge on the dais, looking older, amused, relaxed, been-there-done-that. Eight years after Jeter retired from his professional playing career, Judge was named his successor in captaincy. While Judge sat on the dais attentively listening to Yankees manager Aaron Boone shower the slugger with compliments regarding his leadership, there was a wiser Jeter sitting beside him, a former captain who knows a thing or two about what it takes to lead a team, to lead a city.

“I don’t really look at it as a new role,” Jeter said of a captain’s responsibilities. “I’m just going off of my own experience. When the boss [former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner] called me, he said, ‘Don’t change anything.’ It’s not like you just flip a switch and have to be someone else because you’ve been given this title. I would assume [Judge] has been handling himself like a captain up until this point, which is why they named him captain.” 

Jeter has maintained that anyone wondering whether Judge is ready to be captain should just ask his teammates. And Judge’s teammates have been publicly calling him their captain since the end of the slugger’s historic 2022 season, when he broke the single-season AL record with 62 home runs. As far as whether Jeter believes Judge is ready to be captain? “Everything about him screams leader,” Jeter said.

“Coming up through the Yankees organization, this is all I’ve known,” Judge said. “My blood, sweat and tears have gone into one thing, which is to play for this team and play for this city and these fans. Knowing that I get to continue to do that and do it in one city, words really can’t describe it. It’s such an incredible feeling. It’s family.”

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Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.

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