BRONX — It became clear as Yankees superstar slugger Aaron Judge spoke with reporters on Wednesday just how important that ninth year on a new contract was to him.
When Hal Steinbrenner rang him in the wee hours of the morning to make a final push for him to remain in pinstripes it was at that point, with Judge in California getting ready to fly to Hawaii and Steinbrenner at a rest stop in the middle of Italy, that he gave Judge the ninth year and a deal was sealed. It ended months of speculation and finally put manager Aaron Boone at ease, who compared the process of watching Judge visit other teams to reading about someone that you’re dating going out with other people.
“I told him before and I told him then again, you just got to talk to me what.” Steinbrenner said. “I want to know what is important to you, to your parents, to your wife and to you? What is the most important thing and we talked about a few things. It was apparent to me that the ninth year was very important to him. That he felt like it could be very productive for at least that.”
In the end, Judge stood at the dais in Yankee Stadium still a proud member of the Yankees and looking toward the future with the only organization he’s ever played for. Judge flirted with other teams, with the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres being the biggest threat to his continued existence as a Bronx Bomber.
Judge visited both the Padres and Giants and called both great organizations. The visits also gave him a better perspective on how other teams operate and ultimately helped give him a clearer perspective.
“I think just hearing what (Steinbrenner) had to say (on that 3 a.m. call) and really reinforcing what he meant by it,” Judge said about what swayed him to stay. “You’re not going anywhere and this is what I believe in this is what I want to do and I think it’s all that back end is really made it an easier decision.”
The new contract will take Judge through the 2031 season and until he is age 40. Part of what was important to Judge, he explained, was signing a deal that would take him to the end of his career and make sure he was still at a place where he could compete.
One reporter asked if Judge thought he could play beyond 40 as Tom Brady has in the NFL.
“For me, nine years was the right amount to build something here,” Judge said. “Let’s just start with the first nine and see where we go.”
Judge will headline a star-studded Yankees roster next season and for the long future now that he’s locked in. After joining an already elite group of former Yankee captains, he gets to join a club of players that have spent their whole careers in one location. That was just as important as the nine years for Judge.
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“It means a lot to me just because coming up with a Yankees organization, this is all I’ve known,” Judge said. “This is all, my blood sweat and tears have gone into one thing, which is to play for this team and play for the city and these fans. Knowing that I get to continue to do that and do it in one city, words really can’t describe it. It’s such an incredible feeling.
“It’s family, you know, the fans are family. (The media) are family. It’s just it’s all part of it.”