Through the month of March, leading up to MLB Opening Day on April 1,
Sports Spectrum is highlighting 21 Christ-following players to watch in 2021.
New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge has already earned two All-Star berths in his short career. He broke into the majors in 2016 and was named an All-Star in 2017 and ’18. By many accounts, including MLB.com, he would have been an All-Star in 2020 had there been a game during the pandemic-shortened 60-game season.
But to some, it feels like we still have yet to fully see what Judge can do in the big leagues. Various injuries have limited him to just 28 games last year, 102 games in 2019 and 112 games in 2018. He’s certainly shown his elite abilities in the time he has been on the field, but when he played 155 games in 2017, Judge hit 52 home runs, finished second in American League MVP voting, and was named AL Rookie of the Year. It took him nearly all of 2018 and ’19 to equal his 2017 production.
So health is at the top of the 28-year-old’s priority list as he enters 2021. Whereas he dealt with a rib fracture and collapsed lung during last season’s spring training, he had a good offseason and put himself “in a really good position physically coming in,” according to Yankees manager Aaron Boone.
However, through 13 spring training games this year, Judge is hitting only .235 and has yet to hit a home run. The lack of power production has raised questions, but Judge isn’t concerned.
“The power is going to be there,” he said on a media Zoom call this week, “so it’s not necessarily something I always try to [work on]. That’s a strength of mine, so I like to kind of work on other things that aren’t really a strength of mine and try to build them up and just trying to be the best overall well-rounded baseball player I can be. The power is not really a concern of mine.”
Because he’s been healthy, he’s been afforded the chance to work on aspects such as battling two-strike counts or hitting breaking balls — “tinkering” with things players can’t during the regular season.
“You’re always working on things,” Judge said. “That’s the one thing that I’ve kind of been blessed [with this year], getting the chance to kind of work on some things.”
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Standing at 6-foot-7 and weighing 280 pounds, power has always been a part of Judge’s game. And when he runs down the third-base line during home-run trots, he often points to the sky. During his rookie season, he was asked who he was thinking of when he pointed upward.
“The Lord,” Judge told the assembled media. “He put me in this position, blessed me with so many opportunities in my life. I just try to take a quick moment just to kind of thank Him. I just got a chance to hit a home run at Yankee Stadium. That’s something not too many people can say they’ve done. It’s a blessing every time I step on that field and get that opportunity.”
Judge says he is a Christian on his Twitter account and displays the Bible verse 2 Corinthians 5:7 in his header photo: “For we live by faith, not by sight.”
“It’s one of my favorite Bible verses,” Judge said in December 2019. “I try to live my life by it, and always trust the Man Above and what He’s got in store for us. We never know what’s around the corner, but if we have faith in Him, He will lead us in the right direction.”
Judge’s faith in God stems from his upbringing. On the second day of his life, he was adopted by Patty and Wayne Judge.
“I feel they kind of picked me,” Judge told The New York Post in 2015. “I feel that God was the one that matched us together.”
Patty is know the executive director and president of the All Rise Foundation, which Judge started in 2018.
“Despite the pandemic, we developed new programs [in 2020] with partners like LivBits, supported a lot of children and youth through our mini-grant programs, and grew our footprint from San Joaquin County, CA to also include Fresno County, CA and Bronx, NY,” Judge wrote on the foundation’s website. “Just like I hope to do this year, the ALL RISE team is continuing to develop and find new ways to adapt to help more of our young people and those that teach and coach them.”
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