The Yankees imploded, but slugger Aaron Judge has a season for the history books.
The 30-year-old is chasing a triple crown and, with 55 home runs Wednesday afternoon, he’s on course to break Roger Maris’ American League single-season record of 61 homers.
The judge is posting some incredible numbers, but fans are also wondering about the numbers that matter most: will No. 99 still be pinstriped next year?
Unless the Yankees sign him to a contract extension, he will become a free agent this winter, which has led to rampant speculation about his future, given his growing stock. This week, team president Randy Levine told The Post’s Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman on “The Show” podcast that the Yankees “know his worth and what he means. I don’t know what he’s got.” he has in mind. All we can do is show him how much we would like him to stay a Yankee.
But the judge, who is notoriously private, did not tilt his hand. In fact, he even refused to address as Maris’ milestone approached, saying, “I don’t have anything for you. I’m just trying to do everything I can to help us win. I show up and I’m ready to go.
A source pointed out: “He’s a good teammate, but he keeps to himself. He’s extremely cautious.
And his closed chambers only added more mystique to the judges’ lore, which began in August 2016 when the 6-foot-7 outfielder arrived in the Bronx, hitting a home run in his first Major League game at the stick.
Fans immediately fell in love with his clean image and saw him as a harbinger of future dominance for the team, which hasn’t won a World Series title since 2009.
The usually heavyweight corporate franchise absorbed all the attention for its prized first-round pick in 2013. During his rookie season in 2017, they created the Judge’s Chamber, a three-row section themed around the courtroom in the outfield, where fans dress in black robes and white wigs. And he gave them reason after reason to cheer, winning the Home Run Derby, breaking Mark McGwire’s rookie record and being named American League Rookie of the Year.
The four-time All-Star dominance has only grown, and his blockbuster performance in 2022 even helped maintain the team’s television ratings despite the Bronx Bombers’ fall this summer.
“There’s been incredible buzz surrounding Judge’s pursuit of the home run record,” Howard Levinson, YES Network’s senior vice president of advertising sales, told The Post. “Each batting judge is an event in itself, and we have seen spikes in ratings when standing. Our season ratings have increased significantly compared to last year – 19%.”
Judge’s on-court prowess only heightened public interest in his private life, and his reluctance to open up to fans or the media was reminiscent of another Yankee great: Derek Jeter. However, Judge, who describes himself as a Christian on his Instagram profile, is even more withdrawn than the famous shortstop.
“Jeter was private but didn’t care that his name was on there. He was a private showboat,” an insider told the Post in 2020. “Aaron is quite the opposite. He is silent.
Unlike Jeter, he didn’t look for love in the pages of US Weekly or the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
During his rookie season, he dated media strategist Jen Flaum, who alerted the world to their relationship in a Halloween Instagram post showing the couple dressed as Clark Kent and Lois Lane.
But the couple broke up, and around 2019 Judge returned to his roots: he reunited with 29-year-old Samantha Bracksiek, whom he first dated during his high school days in Linden, California, a small community about 95 miles east of San Francisco.
The town, which holds an annual cherry festival with a cherry pie tasting contest, has united behind its native son. Even downtown pizzeria Pizza Plus turned its back room into a sanctuary for Judge and sold t-shirts that read “Straight out of Linden” with his number 99 on the back.
The judge seemed to find his way to Linden through divine intervention. At 2 days old, he was adopted by Patty and Wayne Judge, who were both teachers in town.
“I feel like they kind of chose me,” Judge told the Post in 2015. “I think it was God who brought us together.”
Around the age of 10, Judge, whose older brother John is also adopted, realized that he and his parents were not alike.
“So I started asking questions, and they told me I was adopted and answered all my questions, and that was it. I was fine with that. It really didn’t bother me. bothered because they are the only parents I have known.”
Even as a baby, Judge showed signs that he would have a commanding physical presence.
“We kind of joked that he looked like Michelin Tire’s baby,” his dad said. “It wasn’t long before the four ounces of formula was just the appetizer, and it had to be the formula with oatmeal to calm him down.”
At Linden High School, Judge excelled in basketball, baseball and football, a sport that earned him scholarships from top programs including Stanford, Notre Dame and UCLA.
But Judge told ESPN, “I fell in love with baseball at a young age. . . It attracted me. »
He played baseball at Fresno State, and Bracksieck followed suit, earning both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in exercise science. Meanwhile, the pair exited their minor league careers and went their separate ways in 2016.
After the couple quietly reunited, Bracksieck made headlines in 2020, when she was arrested for a DUI in Arizona, dropping her boyfriend’s name during the arrest. At the time, sources said it was uncharacteristic for Bracksieck, who, like her boyfriend, flew under the radar.
The couple stayed together and last December they married in Hawaii.
More recently, they were photographed taking part in a US Open match, possibly extracting the last piece of pulp from the Big Apple.
Last October, Judge said he wanted to “be a Yankee for life.” It remains to be seen if the pair plan to move to another city, or if the Yankees can woo the slugger with the payday he’s been waiting for.