When it was on its way, when home run No. 50 began its no-doubt-about-it flight to the heavens, Aaron Judge dropped his bat and started running to first.
He did not:
— Stand at home plate and admire it or flip his bat in the air.
As the majestic seventh-inning wallop off righthander Trevor Cahill landed in the visiting bullpen at Yankee Stadium on Monday afternoon and bounced into the left-centerfield bleachers, Judge continued his journey around the bases as the most prolific home-run hitting rookie in major league history.
He did not:
— Pump his first or pound his chest.
As he rounded third and headed for home, with the crowd on its feet and his teammates clapping on the top step of the dugout, Judge pointed to the sky.
He did not:
— Scream, yell, scowl, preen or prance. He did not leap onto home plate and fling his batting helmet into the air. He did not get down on all fours and imitate a dog urinating on a fire hydrant, as another supremely talented young New York athlete did just a day earlier in a different sport.
Judge crossed home plate and forearm bumped with Gary Sanchez. He accepted the congratulations of his teammates and then of the crowd, who called the 25-year-old out for the first curtain call of his life.
He did not:
— Really know what to do at that moment.
“It’s the spotlight,” Judge said after his second home run broke Mark McGwire’s 1987 rookie record in the Yankees’ 11-3 victory over the Royals. “Game’s still going on. Still got a game to play. So I was more focused about that.”
That, folks, is Aaron Judge in a nutshell, a very large nutshell. The 6-7, 282-pound rightfielder from Linden, California, wasn’t even assured of a spot on the Yankees roster until about a week to go in spring training. Now, Judge has a section in the stands named after him (“The Judge’s Chambers”) and a spot in the record books all to himself.
“Describe the feeling?” Judge said in the postgame interview room, repeating a question. “It’s been an incredible ride. I can’t thank my teammates enough and this organization for putting me in this position. I’m blessed to be here. Blessed to get a chance to play this game every day. So it was an incredible feeling.”
Don’t misunderstand: There is plenty of room in the sports world for the kind of me-first, showboating star Judge is clearly not. There are larger issues in our country than whether a player admires a home run or flips a bat or even makes a vulgar gesture in the end zone, as Odell Beckham Jr. did after scoring a touchdown for the Giants on Sunday in Philadelphia.
It’s just not Judge’s way. His only gesture on Monday was one of thanks, both as he neared the plate and later when he discussed his feat.
Asked who he was thinking of when he pointed to the sky, Judge said: “The Lord. He put me in this position, blessed me with so many opportunities in my life. I just try to take a quick moment just to kind of thank Him. I just got a chance to hit a home run at Yankee Stadium. That’s something not too many people can say they’ve done. It’s a blessing every time I step on that field and get that opportunity.”
It was Joe Girardi who back in May said Judge reminded him of a Yankee deity, the much revered former captain Derek Jeter.
“He has a presence about him,” Girardi said.
That’s a big load to put on a rookie’s shoulders, even for someone with shoulders as broad as Judge’s. More than four months later, did Judge disappoint?
He did not.
Aaron Judge is the fifth Yankees player to have a 50-home run season. He joins:
Babe Ruth (4)
Mickey Mantle (2)
Roger Maris (1)
Alex Rodriguez (1)