Black Friday 2022

Aaron Judge breaks AL single-season home run record: 'I've got to thank God'

The wait is finally over. Aaron Judge is the new American League home run king after hitting his 62nd longball of the season Tuesday night, breaking the single-season record set by Roger Maris back in 1961.

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He sent the third pitch of the game from Texas pitcher Jesús Tinoco into the left-field bleachers at Globe Life Field to avoid heading into the final day of the regular season sitting on 61.

When the New York Yankees slugger hit No. 60 on Sept. 20, it seemed like a foregone conclusion the record would fall. He didn’t get to 61 until Sept. 28 though, giving him exactly a week to break the tie. Judge acknowledged after Tuesday’s game that the pressure had started to weigh on him.

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“I can’t lie,” he said. “The past couple of games, I looked up in the seventh inning and I’m like, ‘Dang, I’ve only got one more at-bat. We’d better figure this out.’”

MLB Network’s Jon Morosi asked Judge to explain how “a kid from Linden, California,” winds up hitting 62 home runs for baseball’s most storied franchise. He paused for a moment, chuckled and told Morosi it all starts with God.

“I’ve got to thank God for putting me in this position and getting me to where I’m at, the constant support from my family and friends who’ve been with me through it all, coaches from Little League, high school, college that have been here instructing me and helping me out through this whole thing,” Judge replied.

The 30-year-old also made sure to give credit to his teammates in the numerous interviews he did following the game, which ended in a 3-2 win for the Texas Rangers. Though his new record is by definition an individual one, he wants everyone to join in on the celebration.

“Any time individual records, individual awards are given, it’s never individual. It’s never single-handedly done … This is something for my family, for my teammates, for the Yankees,” Judge told Morosi. “This is a group effort that I’m happy to share with them.”

There is still one more piece of history Judge could accomplish before the postseason begins. He is four percentage points back of Minnesota Twins infielder Luis Arraez for the AL batting title and could pass Arraez if both players are in the lineup Wednesday. Judge is already the AL leader in home runs and RBIs, so winning the batting title would almost certainly make him the first player to win the Triple Crown since 2012.

And then Judge and the Yankees shift their focus to winning a championship. But once the World Series is over, attention will shift back to Judge’s impending free agency. His approach to his uncertain future is reflected by the Bible verse that serves as his Twitter banner, 2 Corinthians 5:7: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

“It doesn’t matter if it’s the last year or the first year, I’m gonna go out there and play my best and do what I need to do for this city and what I need to do for the team,” Judge said in an interview with the New York Post in February. “It’s all in God’s hands.

“It’s gonna work out the way it’s supposed to. That’s why I’ve got agents. I’ve got people taking care of that. I’m not even worried.”

Judge has long acknowledged God’s work in his life throughout his career. As he ran down the third-base line Tuesday night following his record-breaking home run, Judge pointed to the sky as he usually does during home-run trots. After breaking the rookie record for home runs with 50 in 2017 (he’d finish the year with 52), 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.”

The Yankees are locked into the AL’s No. 2 seed for the 2022 playoffs and will face either the Cleveland Guardians or Tampa Bay Rays in the divisional round. Game 1 is at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday.

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