Aaron Judge headlines baseball camp for kids in Queens
NEW YORK - New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge took time out of his busy schedule making history to help the future generation hone their skills at a baseball camp in Queens.
"Oh, this is what it's all about — getting a chance to come here with my foundation and get a chance to put on this camp with ProCamps," Judge said. "This is what it's all about for me as a youth getting a chance to spend some time with some future All-Stars — talking a little bit about baseball, school, life, and hopefully, they have a smile on their face and learn something today."
Through Judge's All Rise Foundation Baseball ProCamp, over 200 young players in first through eighth grades got a chance to participate in drills taught by the four-time All-Star at Forest Hills High School.
"I saw a lot of my favorite athletes always had a foundation. They're always giving back," Judge said. "And then for me to be in this blessed position and getting the chance to get drafted, play for the Yankees, I just felt like it was the right thing to do."
Aaron's mother, Patty Judge — the executive director and president of the All Rise Foundation, was also on hand.
"It's really rewarding to see how Aaron interacts with children," Patty said. "The other thing that's really cool for mom is to see the kids interact with him."
Judge is from Linden, California, and grew up rooting for the San Francisco Giants.
"I wish I could have had a chance to, if Barry Bonds or something or the Giants or somebody had a camp like this, it would've been cool to attend," Judge said. "Growing up near the Bay Area, I watched a lot of Giants games. I played shortstop, believe it or not, in Little League, so I was a big Rich Aurilia, Jeff Kent, Barry Bonds — those types of guys were guys I looked up to, watched the way they played, they made the game look easy at times and it was a treat back then."
Meanwhile, Yankees fans know Judge for being just as solid in the outfield as he is at the plate, so while the fact Judge played shortstop might be news for some, it only adds to the lore that there's not much the 6-foot-7 slugger can't do.
Judge showed off his arm as well. Catcher Jacob Abzug, an 8th grader, took a pitch from the Yankees star and called the moment surreal.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime moment — I just honestly couldn't believe it," Abzug said. "It just makes you want to work harder. It makes you want to be just like him — he's a role model and a hero."
Meanwhile, Judge admitted seeing the kids get a little starstruck in his presence was "pretty humbling."
"Being a role model — it's always about doing the right thing and just knowing that even though you think no one's watching or no one's listening, there's always somebody out there — a little kid, 5-year-old, 10-year-old — that's watching every move," Judge said. "So you got to do something special and do the right thing."
Special is an understatement when describing Judge's historical season. On Saturday, Judge hit his 42nd home run, topping none other than Babe Ruth for the most home runs hit before August in Yankees franchise history. It was also Judge's 200th career homer. He is the second-fastest hitter to reach that milestone in MLB history.
"A couple of kids are asking like, 'Hey, you beat Babe Ruth's record or you be this and that,' and it's just amazing how in-tune they are," Judge said. "They're watching every single game. They're watching your every single move. For me, that just kind of puts it all in perspective."
As of Monday, Aug. 1, Judge has hit 43 homers and counting. He is on pace for 67 homers this season, which would surpass the American League and Yankees record of 61 set by Roger Maris back in 1961. It's a number many believe is still the all-time record, despite Bonds — a player Judge looked up to — cracking 73 of them in a single season in 2001.
"Oh, not at all," said Judge when he was asked if he had thought about closing in on his idol's record. "That's a long way away. I'm still stuck in the forties and I'm focused on helping the team win. If it happens, it happens, you know?" Judge said. "But I'm more worried about bringing back a championship to New York and knocking that out first — then we can worry about the records."
Spoken like a true Yankee.