LONDON — Aaron Judge and many of his teammates launched shot after shot in all directions during batting practice Friday. Afterward, he gave his seal of approval to London Stadium.
“We’ve got two potent offenses,” Judge said before breaking into a wide smile. “Especially with these dimensions in this park, we’re going to have a little bit of fun with it.”
London Stadium, initially built for the 2012 Olympics and used most frequently now as a soccer venue for West Ham United FC, has been converted to a baseball ballpark for this weekend’s two-game London Series between the Yankees and Red Sox, and it is not without its quirks.
There is an overhang directly above home plate, which means few foul pops of any significant height will be caught for outs — balls that hit the overhang will be declared dead — and a massive amount of foul territory, something akin to Oakland Coliseum.
Didi Gregorius and DJ LeMahieu said the infield seemed exceptionally fast compared to the majority of major-league ballparks, but nothing that should cause significant problems.
Both clubs worked out Friday afternoon on the artificial turf field, and what commanded the most attention was the stadium dimensions and how the ball carried. It is 330 feet in the corners and a spacious 382 feet to the gaps but only 385 feet to dead centerfield (though with a mini-Green Monster there measuring 16 feet).
“It travels pretty well, especially with it being so short to centerfield,” Judge said, smiling again. “I feel like it flies pretty well. It’s got good carry.”
Masahiro Tanaka, who will start Saturday for the Yankees, was on the field before the workout getting used to the mound.
The righthander, 5-5 with a 3.21 ERA this season, said pitching from an unfamiliar rubber is not a concern.
“I’m not overly worried about that,” he said through a translator before heading out to test the mound. “I’ll get a chance to go out there and get a feel for it.”
Many players brought their families on the trip and spent either Thursday afternoon or Friday morning walking the streets and/or taking in many of the sights around the city — such as the London Eye, the Tower of London and the Churchill War Rooms, to name a few.
Aaron Boone visited Buckingham Palace in a group that included Red Sox manager Alex Cora and watched the changing of the guard.
Tanaka said that under different circumstances, he might have seen some sights. “If I hadn’t been pitching in one of these games, maybe there would have been an aspect of enjoying London a bit,” he said. “But for me, it’s strictly business.”
Judge, who visited London on a vacation two years ago and took in more of the city Thursday and Friday, said he’s watched the NFL play here for years and has felt “a little jealous.”
“I’ve been waiting for MLB to get an opportunity to do this,” he said. “I’m just excited and blessed that the Yankees and Red Sox are participating in this. It’s one of the biggest rivalries in sports and I’m just blessed. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
But make no mistake: When Saturday rolls around, it will be all business for Judge and his teammates. It is, after all, a series against the Red Sox, who trail the AL East-leading Yankees by nine games.
“For us, it’s about enjoying the workout today, enjoying the past couple of days and checking out the city,” Judge said. “But once we get between the lines and the game starts, it’s game on.”