Like many Yankees fans and probably most Yankees players, Harrison Bader learned the news that Aaron Judge was staying in pinstripes when he woke up on Wednesday morning.
“Today’s a good day in the Bronx,” said Bader, who was at Yankee Stadium accepting food donations from fans as part of the Yankees’ holiday food drive.
It was gloomy and wet outside the stadium. But inside the Great Hall, it was nothing but sunshine and smiles as Bader greeted early-arriving fans who donated food in exchange for tickets for a 2023 game. Those tickets might not have been as coveted had Judge signed elsewhere.
Bader said the news that Judge had agreed to a nine-year, $360 million deal with the Yankees started burning up the players’ group chat on Wednesday morning.
“Just a lot of congratulations for Aaron in the group chat,” Bader said. “Obviously, we're all very, very excited to wake up to that news. Moving forward, it's something that just wouldn't feel right if he wasn’t in pinstripes. I've only experienced it for a couple months, so a lot of guys in that clubhouse have known him for much longer. Everything that they said and how important he is to the clubhouse and what he means to the team, I learned very quickly. So to have him back, it's just a great feeling.”
Bader joined the Yankees from St. Louis in a surprise deadline day deal when he was injured, and he didn’t make his debut until Sept. 20.
Bader’s arrival in centerfield allowed Judge to stay in right. Bader, who is from Bronxville, was the Yankees’ best hitter in the playoffs as he smashed five home runs.
Even though Bader was rehabbing a foot injury when he joined the Yankees, he quickly learned how important Judge was to the club off the field.
“From the second I met him, I understood his presence,” Bader said. “I obviously heard about it from afar, but to experience it up close, I understand why he's so revered and everybody loves him the way they do.”
Bader will be a free agent after the 2023 season, so he is only guaranteed to play one full year next to Judge in the outfield.
“I'm just happy to not only have experienced that for a few months, but now for at least the near future from my perspective,” Bader said. “So I'm very, very excited. Couldn't be more happy for him. I spent a little bit of time with Aaron in the season, so i just can't be more excited for all the time that we're going to have moving forward. I was very happy for him and this organization, the fan base, and to say he's going to be a Yankee for as many years as he is is a great feeling. So today is a good day.”