What was Judge looking at before 2nd HR?

Blue Jays' broadcast showed Yanks slugger glancing at dugout during at-bat

May 16th, 2023

TORONTO -- was batting in the eighth inning on Monday night when Dan Shulman and Buck Martinez, the Blue Jays’ veteran broadcast team on Sportsnet, spotted an oddity on their monitors. A close-up camera view showed the Yankees slugger’s eyes darting to the right; it happened again a few pitches later.

“What is that? Where is he looking?” Shulman said on the broadcast. “And he did it more than once.”

Martinez said that Judge’s eye movements seemed “really, really unusual,” and the former big league catcher added that, while he had witnessed players looking back to steal signs, Judge “couldn’t see the catcher with the way he was looking right there.”

When Judge pummeled Toronto reliever Jay Jackson’s next pitch for a 462-foot homer to center field, giving the Yankees a 7-0 lead, the on-air commentary sparked a firestorm of online speculation.

So what was it? Conspiracy theorists may be disappointed by the simplicity of Judge’s explanation.

Earlier in the at-bat, manager Aaron Boone had been ejected by home-plate umpire Clint Vondrak, with Boone having barked about Jackson’s low 1-1 slider that was called a strike -- the continuation of a long night of complaints from both dugouts about the strike zone.

Boone engaged in a fiery argument with Vondrak, though the Yankees’ commentary did not cease when Boone exited, whipping a wad of gum toward the visitors' dugout. With the count at 1-2, Judge said he could hear more chatter from his bench as the at-bat continued.

“There was a lot of chirping from our dugout, which I didn’t really like in a situation where it’s a 6-0 game and Boonie got tossed,” Judge said. “I was trying to save Boonie by calling timeout, like, ‘Hey, hold up here. Let me work here.’ I was kind of trying to see who was chirping in the dugout; it’s 6-0 and Boonie got tossed. Let’s just go to work. I’m kind of looking, like, ‘Who’s still talking here?’”

Boone said that he was aware of the Sportsnet commentary, having heard Shulman and Martinez on the in-house feed when he returned to his office.

“There was some chirping going from our side when I got thrown out, and then it continued,” Boone said. “I think a lot of our guys were still letting them hear it. Judgie was looking over like, ‘I’m hitting here.’”

As usual, Judge said he appreciated Boone sticking up for him. Judge’s issue was with the continuing commentary directed at the umpire.

“I feel like after a manager does his thing, our pitcher’s still got to go out there and make some pitches,” Judge said. “We’ve got to go to work here. I said a couple of things when I was in the dugout, and especially after the game. Hopefully it won’t happen again.”

The Blue Jays, speaking at approximately the same time as Judge and the Yankees, found the situation curious.

“It’s kind of odd that a hitter would be looking in that direction,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “He’s obviously looking in that direction for a reason. I think we’ll dive into that a little bit more tonight and tomorrow, and make sure that we’re doing everything we can to not make ourselves susceptible to tendencies, locations, pitches or anything like that.”

Jackson told Sportsnet that he had not experienced anything similar in his career.

"I haven't seen hitters do that before, so I can't say what he was doing,” Jackson told Sportsnet. “We'll see what plays out from this. Next time, we'll have a different game plan. … If he knew it was coming, I'm glad he didn't miss it.”