By Kevin Kernan
July 22, 2017
Aaron Judge appears to have broken Statcast, which did not have an immediate measurement of the blast.
SEATTLE — Here is what Aaron Judge brings to the Yankees and MLB. It is rare, something seen only once in a great while in sports.
Judge brings something bigger than the wow factor.
To every fan who comes to a game, Judge brings anticipation, the ability to witness an “I was there’’ moment.
All rise, indeed.
That is so rare these days. In the NBA, LeBron James and Steph Curry possess that ability. In the NFL, there is Odell Beckham Jr., who has “the gift.” What makes Judge so different, especially in this generation, is that he is so humble. The big man puts his head down and offers an aw-shucks smile when asked about his achievements.
Such was the case after his prodigious three-run home run at Safeco Field on Friday night that lifted the Yankees to a 5-1 win over the Mariners. The tracking mechanism lost contact with the arcing baseball.
Call it the biggest error in the Statcast era, but we will know when the next 120-foot bloop hit lands in the outfield.
An “official’’ guesstimate measurement was offered by the Mariners at 440 feet, something everyone who witnessed the blast scoffed at immediately.
Mr. October was in the house, and Reggie Jackson, you’ll remember, hit one off a light tower in Detroit at the 1971 All-Star Game, so he knows great home-run distances better than anyone. In the clubhouse he was told that the estimate was 440 feet and Reggie immediately said, “That ball was hit at least 500 feet.’’
He went on to add that he was so sure it was that type of tape-measure home run, he would “eat’’ the baseball, if it had not gone that far.
It is a good thing the roof was open because if it had been closed, Judge’s ball might have scraped the baseball umbrella that sits 217 feet above second base.
The home run was caught by a fan named Rob Sibley. He was seated three rows from the top in left, by the tracks that house the mechanism for the retractable roof. He made a leaping grab, so the ball would have landed one or two rows from exiting the building, something that has not happened since Safeco was built in 1999.
“The ball just kept carrying,’’ Sibley told Mariners TV. “At first I thought there was no way it would carry to me because I knew how far up we were, and it just kept floating right into my hands.’’
The pitch was a hanging curve by Andrew Moore that floated to home plate at 77 mph, and at just the right height for the 6-foot-7 Judge to lay into the pitch with every ounce of muscle in his body. The blast, his 31st, left the bat at 115.6 mph and, according to the ESPN home run tracker, landed 434 feet from home plate with a stadium distance of 454 feet. Different estimate; still not long enough.
For Judge it was the 13th home run this season that was at least 425 feet, the most in baseball.
This is not about numbers, it is about the moment, and that is what Judge gives the Yankees and fans. These are great days in which we are living.
Earlier in the year when the rookie registered another ridiculous exit velocity and I mentioned the speed to him, he smiled and said, “I’ll take a few more of those.’’
What made this home run special to Judge was that his parents, Wayne and Patty, were at the game, having come up from their Northern California home for the series.
“It’s great having them here,’’ Judge told me with that gap-toothed smile.
As for the home run, he mentioned it was key that his teammates were able to get on base ahead of him.
“I was just glad to be in that position,’’ he said. “CC [Sabathia] pointed it out, helping me to figure out where it landed.’’
Judge puts his head down and runs the bases when he homers. He does not stand and admire his home runs, so he did not know the exact spot where it landed. He might have been the only person seated in the ballpark who did not watch the incredible flight of the ball.
They all witnessed.