It’s not too often the baseball world sees 62 home runs by the same player in a single Major League Baseball season. Heck, 50 is a hard enough accomplishment. In fact, if you remove the tarnished names of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa from the MLB’s all-time home run leaders list, 62 dingers in a single season had never actually before happened – legally, that is.
Sure, Bonds hit 73 in 2001 with Sosa not far behind at 64 the same year, and McGwire hammered 70 out of the park in 1998 with Sosa once again finishing as the bridesmaid with career-high 66 in that same season, but all three players’ records contain an asterisk behind their names. The asterisk denotes the players’ use of performance enhancing hormones and steroids during that four-year span (the ‘Steroid Era’).
But we’re not here to talk about cheaters – we never have been, and we never will be. The focus, rather, is on the accomplishments of 30-year-old Aaron Judge.
On Tuesday, October 4, the New York Yankees’ all-star slugger ripped the 62nd home run of his 2022 season deep into left-centrefield. He did so on just the third pitch of the game from Texas Rangers’ starting pitcher Jesus Tinoco, blasting another moon-shot into the grandstands at Globe Life Field, breaking the single-season record set by Roger Maris back in 1961.
“It’s an incredible honour,” Judge said moments after his first inning blast. “Words can’t describe it.”
“I gotta thank God for putting me in this position and getting me to where I’m at,” he told MLB Network. “The constant support from my family and friends who have been with me through it all – coaches from Little League, high school, college that have been here and instructed me and helped me out through this whole thing… it’s been a great honour.” https://twitter.com/TheJudge44/status/1577724984612589593
Maris’ son, Roger Jr. was actually in attendance at the Rogers Centre in Toronto when Judge hit his father’s record-tying 61st home run. He shared a rather candid response to Judge breaking the 61-year-old record – one that spoke to Judge’s accomplishments while dimming the light on those using performance-enhancing drugs.
“He’s clean, he’s a Yankee, he plays the game the right way,” Maris Jr. said. “I think he gives people a chance to look at somebody who should be revered for hitting 62 home runs and not just as a guy who did it in the American League. He should be revered for being the actual single-season home run champ. That’s really who he is if he hits 62, and I think that’s what needs to happen. I think baseball needs to look at the records, and I think baseball should do something.”
Saying Thank You
Judge is no stranger to the spotlight, but just rather prefers to stay out of it when able—although that’s difficult considering his monstrous 6-foot-7, 285-pound build. The right fielder didn’t change anything from his typical home run celebrations for No. 62. It was a simple smile and a point up to the heavens, which he says, “helps me think of the Lord”.
“He put me in this position, blessed me with so many opportunities in my life,” Judge said after breaking the single-season rookie home run record (50). “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.”
A Humble Approach
Judge’s humble persona has remained despite his booming success as a professional baseball player.
“Anytime individual records, individual awards are given, it’s never individual. It’s never single-handedly done,” he said after hitting No. 62. “It’s through a group effort. People behind the scenes, family support, friends, teammates. So, I can’t stand up here and say this is a great accomplishment for me. This is something for my family, for my teammates, for the Yankees. This is a group effort that I’m happy to share.”
And it wasn’t like he was praying for a home run. But when you get that close to the MLB record, it’s hard to come up just one shy. October 4 was game No. 161 out of 162 on the season. Judge definitely cut it close.
“I just try to take it one day at a time and say a prayer, go out there and just try to play my game,” he said. “For me, I never tried to focus on the number, never tried to focus on going out there and doing it. Just go out there and play my game, and if I’m good enough and God willing, it’ll happen. I think just having that type of faith I think kind of helped me out through this whole process.”
God and the Future
For Judge, God has always been at the centre of his life. A quick glance at his social media profile provides a look at his bio which reads: “Christian. Faith, Family, then Baseball. If what you did yesterday still seems big today, then you haven’t done anything today!” The photo that runs across the top of his page quotes 2 Corinthians 5:7 – ”For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
“It’s one of my favorite Bible verses,” explains Judge. “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.”
God has already led Judge to the MLB, where he has showcased his immense talent. He also puts his faith on full display. Despite being in the final year of an expiring contract, his focus remains on postseason baseball. The rest, as he says, will all fall into place.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s the last year or the first year, I’m going to 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 a February interview with the New York Post. “It’s all in God’s hands. “It’s going to 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.”