Judge gives ball to mom, gets gift from ump

September 29th, 2022

TORONTO -- At some point in the very near future, will offer mementos from his record-tying 61st home run to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Perhaps the Yankees star will ship his helmet, bat or uniform to the storied Cooperstown, N.Y., museum; he hasn’t quite decided on that yet.

But one thing is certain -- No. 61 will never see the inside of a public display case. That one belongs to Mom.

Having slugged a Tim Mayza sinker into the Blue Jays bullpen to equal Roger Maris' 61-year-old American League record for home runs in a season, Judge presented the treasured ball to his mother, Patty, outside Rogers Centre’s visiting clubhouse shortly after the final out of Wednesday’s 8-3 victory over the Blue Jays.

“She’s been with me through it all,” Judge said. “From the Little League days, getting me ready for school, taking me to my first couple of practices and games, being there for my first professional game. My debut, and now getting a chance to be here for this -- this is something special, and we’re not done yet.”

Patty was seated alongside Roger Maris Jr. for the three games in Toronto, patiently standing by as her son tried to slug a home run that the entire sports world was seemingly waiting on.

She cheered as Judge rounded the bases, and she seemed to grow visibly emotional as reality set in. Maris embraced Judge’s mother immediately after the blast; Patty Judge and Maris both were invited to attend Judge’s postgame press conference at Rogers Centre.

“It was a lot of fun getting to know her, getting to know a little bit about the family,” Maris said. “You can see why Aaron carries himself the way he does. You can see the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The family seems very grounded.”

Indeed, Judge seemed to expertly handle the increased attention of the chase for No. 61. He said that his family navigated the span of 35 plate appearances between Nos. 60 and 61 just as well.

“I think they were good,” Judge said. “My wife [Samantha] has been with me through it all. She’s calm as a cucumber, that’s for sure. And my parents, I think you’ve seen a couple of replays, my dad [Wayne] knows when I get one. There were a couple of close calls, and he knew off the bat, like, ‘Nah, that’s nothing. He’ll get it next time.’

“So just having their support and having my mom here with me for this moment, it means the world to me, that’s for sure.”

It had been speculated that Judge’s milestone ball could have been worth as much as $2 million; Judge and his family were thrilled that the ball landed in the Blue Jays’ bullpen, where it was retrieved by bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, then passed to closer Jordan Romano.

Yankees reliever Zack Britton retrieved the baseball from the Toronto hurler, presenting it to team security officer Mark Kafalas as they documented its authenticity. No. 61 was marked with the letter-number combination “T 9” in large black letters near the MLB logo.

“Anyone would have done it,” Romano said. “We just didn't want to give it to the wrong person. I'm sure it would have gotten in the right hands. But when it came in, there were probably 15 people back there and they wanted the ball. So when Britton came over, we made sure to give it to him.”

Said Judge: “Class-act move from [Romano], one of the best in the game. Definitely means a lot. I’ve got to try to find him here and thank him for that, that’s for sure.”

Britton joked that he is “still in negotiations” for his finder’s fee, saying that he and Judge would “talk on the plane” about it.

There were more souvenirs to bring back to New York. Home-plate umpire Brian O’Nora also congratulated Judge on tying Maris' mark, giving him the game's lineup card. One can only imagine what the scene will be if and when Judge hits No. 62 -- especially if it happens in the Bronx.

“It’s a moment,” Judge said, “that I definitely will never forget.”