At 6-feet-7 and 280 pounds, he may be the biggest player ever to play Major League Baseball.
And if anyone doubted his power, the recent All-Star Game Home Run Derby participant convincingly won should have removed all doubt.
Aaron Judge is the rookie sensation of the 2017 season. The New York Yankees’ rightfielder is pretty much a lock to be American League rookie of the year and perhaps the league’s most valuable player. At the All-Star break, Judge led the league with 30 home runs, 66 runs batted in and a .329 batting average.
His home run total so far has surpassed Joe DiMaggio’s 29 for the Yankee record by a player in his first season. But it is his off-the-field demeanor that has players and media buzzing.
Living in the town that “never sleeps,” he has not been caught up in the endless night life that traps so many young players. He has been described by players and coaches in countless media articles as unselfish and willing to talk to anybody. In a recent article in USA Today’s Sports Weekly, it was mentioned “he peppers his conversations with ‘please’ and ‘thank-yous,’ and when approached by reporters, he offers a handshake and even calls them by name.” In that same article, his high school coach referred to him as “innocent as a dove.”
As I read these articles, I began to wonder about what was not being said about Judge. He comes from a seemingly stable family in northern California. Research showed that he is biracial and was adopted by two educators one day after he was born.
He was drafted in the 31st round by the Oakland A’s, but instead he allowed his parents to steer him to college at Fresno State. All this sounded good, but I was looking for that one missing piece. What drove this 25-year-old from deep inside?
I found on his Twitter page what I was looking for and what the secular media often misses or ignores.
Judge is a born-again believer. As we have discovered during this past year, the true thoughts of a person often are revealed on social media. Judge lists at the top of his page, “Christian, faith, family, then baseball.” An Easter tweet said, “Happy Easter everyone, He is risen.” Digging deeper, I even found his life verse, “For we live by faith, not by sight.”(II Corinthians 5:17)
For over two decades, I have interviewed enough athletes to know when they have a true faith. It is a shame that the national media can see what a true man of God looks like, but not admit it to their readers. A few years ago, I interviewed Daniel Murphy, now the second baseman for the Washington Nationals.
He told me, “I don’t mention God in my interviews. I talk about Jesus Christ in my life. That’s like throwing snakes on a table.”
I would love to have Judge as a potential guest, but he is so popular that only the highest priority media is given access and even then, they are told to keep it short. The same rule is being applied to the top pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, another solid Christian.
But as the Bible says, “I have made you a light for the Gentiles that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47). God’s light will shine.
As the season progresses, baseball fans everywhere will start to hear about Judge. It’s good to know that he represents a large number of athletes who want to be a light in a dark world. His light will only get brighter as he matures as a man and in his sport.
As Judge says in a tweet from August of 2016, “Make a difference, Lord willing.”
Columbus’ Tom Rust is founder of the national “Face To Face” sports ministry, a local radio sports broadcaster, and pastor of Sardinia Baptist Church. He can be reached at email@example.com.