If Saquon Barkley wanted to know everything that a great rookie season in New York can bring, he didn’t have to look far Tuesday night. The Giants’ rookie running back was at the Stadium to throw the ceremonial first pitch before the Yankees faced the Astros. And before that, he logged some quality time with Aaron Judge, whose remarkable first season a year ago turned him into the national sensation he remains today.
“I’ve never really thought about it personally, but if you just look at the history — look at Eli [Manning] and Odell [Beckham Jr.] and Judge and Derek Jeter — the New York media is huge,” Barkley said moments after bouncing his pitch just in front of home plate. “It’s big. You succeed here and you’re going to be known worldwide. I’ve realized that, but that’s not something I think about.”
Barkley said the only thing he is focused on is trying his “best every single day to bring a championship back to New York.” Certainly it was not about throwing a strike after spending part of the ride over watching lowlights of ceremonial first pitches, including rapper 50 Cent’s catastrophe at Citi Field in 2014.
“When you step out of your element, that’s when it gets different. I was actually a little nervous,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to be nervous because in college, I played in front of 110,000 on a weekly basis . . . On my way here, I was watching all the videos of the . . . bad ones and I was like, ‘I do not want to be on ESPN’s Not Top 10.’ It wasn’t a great pitch, but I think I saved myself.”
He gave himself a “7” and said it was better than coach Pat Shurmur’s at Citi Field earlier this month.
When Barkley wasn’t trying to pitch Judge on playing for the Giants — “I looked him up and down and I was like ‘you’re really big. You could play tight end if you wanted to’ ” — or getting Judge to pose for a photo with him before taking cuts in the batting cage, he was admiring how Judge has handled the spotlight.
“He does a pretty good job. Any athlete in the New York world that’s able to handle himself in that spotlight, with all that attention on him, it’s not easy,” Barkley said before making the natural segue into Jeter. “Jeter, you want to kind of model yourself after him in every way. He was never in the media for bad reasons, did it the right way, was a great athlete. To, in this media market, to be able to hold yourself like that is . . . definitely respectable and I think Judge does a great job.”