NEW YORK -- The way David Ortiz and Aaron Judge embraced, you'd think they were lifelong friends. In fact, Judge was asked how long they'd known each other after the two shared a handshake and a giant hug before a Carsten Sabathia's charity bowling event Monday night in Manhattan.
"That was the first time I met him," said Judge. "That's just David's personality. Everybody is his friend. He welcomes everybody. It was cool to finally meet him and hang out with him a little bit."
Like so many others, Ortiz has admired Judge's rapid rise from promising rookie to American League MVP Award candidate this season with wonder and awe. Judge is quickly replacing Ortiz, who retired after last season, as the biggest power threat in the AL East, and he'll be front and center when the Yankees and Red Sox begin an anticipated three-game series Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. Judge leads the AL in runs and homers.
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"Look at Judge. That kid is scary, man," Ortiz said. "That is the scariest thing I've ever seen. A guy that big? He's special."
Not only is Judge, 25, putting up Ortiz-like numbers in his first full season, he's impressing baseball people with the way he's been able to control the strike zone given his height and frame. Ortiz is no different. The man they call "Big Papi" is listed at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, but he has to look up at Judge and make an effort to wrap his arms fully around him.
"To be honest with you, the strike zone for a guy his size … that's why I believe he's so good and he's going to get better," Ortiz said. "When you are that tall, the strike zone is bigger. Then you watch him hit, and he don't chase bad pitches. That's special, man. God bless him."
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Ortiz and Judge were both on hand at Bowlmor Times Square to support Sabathia's PitCCh In Foundation, which looks to enrich the lives of inner-city youth in the New York Tri-State Are and Northern California. Other participants were Dellin Betances, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, Matthew Holliday, Mookie Betts, David Price and others, including New York Giants quarterback Geno Smith, Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker, former NFL star Tiki Barber and actor Isiah Whitlock.
Ortiz and Sabathia went head-to-head as bowling coaches at the event, both leading a sponsored team. Ortiz pulled out a narrow victory in front of Betts, his former teammate and a highly-skilled bowler. Judge, who called himself "a terrible bowler" before the event, rolled casually on one of the far lanes with his teammates.
Judge intends to take Tuesday's game against Boston much more seriously.
"Off the field, we're all good friends," Judge said. "But once we get on that field, we're competitive."