Aaron Judge #99 of the Yankees stands in the outfield during...

Aaron Judge #99 of the Yankees stands in the outfield during the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Yankee Stadium on Friday, June 18, 2021. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Maybe a good road trip wasn’t enough to convince Yankees fans that this upswing is for real. Maybe the thought of going back into a crowded stadium after the deadliest pandemic in 100 years was enough to dissuade most. Or maybe the traffic to the Bronx was really, really bad on a summer Friday (it was).

Either way, Yankee Stadium opened to full capacity for the first time since 2019 on Friday night, but it wasn’t quite what everyone expected.

Make no mistake, the fans sometimes were loud — the Bleacher Creatures sounded like a legion during their coordinated roll call — but it wasn't nearly the sellout that most expected, and long after first pitch, nearly every section had available seating, according to Ticketmaster.

But though it wasn’t what the players envisioned — Zack Britton said the team excitedly discussed the possibility of a packed house on the way back from Buffalo on Thursday — it still was a crowd, and it still was a return to normalcy. After all, there’s a full weekend full of games to come and more chances for a sellout crowd, and there’s nothing like having that at Yankee Stadium, Aaron Boone said.

They were "really excited," Boone said. "I think what’s been neat is that there’s been some games this year where whatever max capacity has been — 14,000 — where it seemed like and felt like a lot more than that, so the fact that we’re going to have up to twice as many fans in the building tonight, Yankee Stadium in the Bronx on the weekend as the summer is upon us, I think everyone is looking forward to that."

That was put into especially stark relief last year, when no fans were allowed; the Yankees didn’t even use the cardboard cutouts that were ubiquitous throughout the league.

Now that they’re trying to build some momentum from a 5-3 road trip, an added home-field advantage would be great, Aaron Judge said.

"They played the fake crowd noise, but that doesn’t compare, not even close to what a packed house at Yankee Stadium any night brings," he said. "I think being on the road and seeing a couple other stadiums at full capacity kind of got us juiced up, so we’re ready to roll. We have the best fans in the world, so it’s going to be fun."

And though the value of playing at home sometimes has been debated — going into Friday, the Yankees were only one game over .500 at Yankee Stadium and three games over .500 on the road — the benefits of playing in the Bronx are undeniable in Judge’s eyes. But especially when Yankee Stadium sounds like it’s supposed to sound: an eardrum-rattling din of cheers and chants.

"You just feed off the energy," he said. "The game is all about energy, momentum swings, and when you’ve got the home crowd, you’ve got 50,000 screaming on your side, you can swing a game one way or another really quickly, especially after a double play, a big hit, a pitcher dominating. You just feel that energy and it just gives you a little bit of an adrenaline pump that you need to push through some things."

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