NEW YORK – Michael Kessler made a last-minute decision to board the D train for Tuesday’s game at Yankee Stadium, hoping to witness Aaron Judge's 60th home run. It was undoubtedly the best MetroCard swipe of his life so far.
A 20-year-old student at City College of New York, Kessler ended up with the milestone ball Judge hit to the left-field bleachers in the ninth inning of the Bombers’ 9-8 win, clutching the souvenir close to his chest until security whisked him downstairs.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Kessler said. “We were standing on top of the bleachers and then went down for his at-bat. We were jumping up and down because I knew it was a home run. It hit the top of the bleachers and then bounced toward our section. I just went to grab it and bear hugged it.”
Accompanied by three teammates on CCNY’s baseball team, Kessler -- a pitcher and outfielder for the college -- agreed to swap the ball for a bounty that included a clubhouse meet-and-greet with Judge, four autographed baseballs, and a signed game bat (not the one Judge used to hit the homer).
The Yankees have recovered the 56th, 57th and 58th home run balls for Judge; they were unable to negotiate for No. 59, hit on Sunday in Milwaukee.
It has been suggested that Judge’s 60th home run ball could fetch a sum in the tens of thousands of dollars. Kessler said that keeping the ball, or putting it up for sale, never crossed his mind.
“Judge means so much to the organization, especially this year,” Kessler said. “He’s just unbelievable. Just the way he is, he deserved to have the ball back. I have no second thoughts.”
As Kessler and his friends posed for photographs with Judge, they made one more request of the All-Star slugger: to stay with the Yankees beyond this season.
“Yeah, my roommate was like, ‘Please re-sign,’” Kessler said, with a laugh. “It really means a lot to me to give it back to him.”