Yanks' Judge speaks softly to match big stick

Girardi compares quiet giant's demeanor, passion to legendary Jeter

May 1st, 2017

NEW YORK -- Yankees right fielder has a powerful bat. His 10 home runs in April, which tied a rookie record for the month, can attest to that. But his personality tells you something different.

Judge walks quietly near his locker, has a smile on his face and greets everyone with a hello. At the same time, Judge, 25, seems reluctant to talk about himself. His numbers prove there is nothing to be shy about. These days, Judge is the straw that stirs the drink.

The home runs are not the only impressive things about Judge. Entering Monday's action against the Blue Jays, the 21st century's version of the Bronx Bomber is hitting .303 with 20 RBIs, a .411 on-base percentage and .750 slugging percentage.

We haven't even touched on Judge's tape-measure bombs which have been recorded by Statcast™. Man, they are Ruthian shots. Take the home run Judge hit Friday against Orioles right-hander in the sixth inning: The exit velocity was 119.4 mph, the hardest-hit in the Statcast™ era, and the ball landed in Monument Park in center Field. The projected distance was 435 feet.

When he is asked about his success on the field, Judge gives all the credit to his teammates.

"[I'm successful because] it's the team that I'm on," Judge said. "I'm surrounded by good players, a mix of veteran guys, we have a good mix of young talented players. For me, I'm just in the perfect position right now. [Almost] every single time I'm at the plate, I've had guys on base. We have a lot of guys in the lineup that make things happen."

There are people in the Yankees' organization who are willing to sing Judge's praises. Take manager Joe Girardi: Judge hasn't been in the league a full season, and his skipper is already comparing his star player with Yankees legend Derek Jeter.

"He's a little bit like Derek, to me," Girardi said of Judge. "He's got a smile all the time. He loves to play the game. You always think that he's going to do the right thing on the field and off the field when you look at him. He's got a presence about him. He plays the game to win all the time. That's the most important thing. It's not about what you did that day.

"I understand that's a big comparison, but I remember Derek when he was young. He grew into that leadership role, but that was Derek. Derek loved to have fun, loved to laugh and loved to play the game. Always had a smile on his face and was energetic, and that's what I see from this kid. I see him doing things the right way on the field and off the field, and that's the way Derek was as well when he was young."

Teammate Didi Gregorius noticed a difference in Judge's approach at the plate this season. It's rare that Judge is swinging at pitcher's pitches.

"He means a lot to the team and everybody can see what he can do. He's got to keep that up. Just keep it simple like he has. … He is a big part of the team," Gregorius said. "He is laying off all the nasty pitches. That's the main thing that's going on. He is more selective and he puts his 120-mph swing on the ball."

One thing is certain: Judge doesn't feel the pressure of playing in New York. Nothing seems to faze him. He credits the Yankees' organization for preparing him for the big city.

"The New York Yankees' organization -- they train us well from the get-go," Judge said. "They tell us how to handle everything. This is the biggest media market. A lot of people love to watch the Yankees. They just prepared us well for the situation. When we come up here, it's like second nature. Nothing is a surprise to us.

"I love the city of New York. It's kind of fun. I grew up in the country, so I'm getting a little change of pace. The city has been great. Playing in front of these fans has been amazing. They are always yelling. They are always screaming. They are always on their feet. They have a lot of good energy that we can feed off of."