Let’s be honest, waiting is the best part. Waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve is always more fun than Christmas day; packing to go on vacation is usually better than traveling itself, and waiting for Aaron Judge to hit his 61st home run is no different. Having been at the first two games of the Yankees/Red Sox series with Judge stuck at 60 home runs, I would like to take the time to appreciate the waiting game during the Aaron Judge home run chase.
Before even talking about the games, let’s reflect on the days leading up to the Red Sox series, specifically, the Sunday game against the Brewers (September 18). Many would consider this a pivotal day in baseball fandom because once he hit his 59th home run, the Aaron Judge Home Run chase for Maris became real. Up until this point in the season, talks of Judge’s success had stayed contained within Yankee fans. After, the discussion and excitement came from outside of fandom. From a personal viewpoint, the Aaron Judge home run chase has started popping up at work and in public, while running errands from everywhere between Chipotle and Dunkin’ Donuts. People wanted to talk about the Aaron Judge home run chase because it matters.
Sports fans speak often about how baseball has become America’s third-favorite sport in recent years, but America has a special place in its heart for baseball that will never be taken away, which is why Minor League Baseball is so plentiful across the country. The point being, when big things happen in baseball, America cares. Noticing how frequent of a conversation topic Aaron Judge has become in your daily routine is proof of that.
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The Atmosphere in Yankee Stadium during Judge’s At-Bats
Now, let me fast forward to the Yankees’ first game in a four-game series against the Red Sox on Thursday, September 22. This is the most difficulty I had getting into Yankee Stadium in a non-playoff game. Lines were outrageous, streets were flooded with people and cops were everywhere. Just the way I like it.
Inside the stadium, I expected to see more Aaron Judge home run chase promotions than what was there. I did not swing by the massive team store on the first level, but I did notice merchandise vendors were mostly featuring Derek Jeter jerseys, shirts, and hats way more than Aaron Judge. On one hand, that speaks to the power of Jeter that his merchandise still sells even this far removed from his retirement. But on the other, it alludes to the common Yankee stereotype of living in the past.
I wish the Yankees recognized the opportunity that was in front of them. If I were an authority on Yankee marketing in the ballpark, I would have put more emphasis on Judge merchandise, particularly items related to his home run chase. I am not saying that Judge was completely absent from promotion, but had it not been for the many video packages on the big screen, you wouldn’t know anything historic was going on if you had simply walked through the ballpark.
Now for Aaron Judge himself. When this man gets to bat, every pitch is like watching golf: dead silent. I have never experienced crowd behavior like this at a baseball game in my life. every time the pitch steps on the rubber, the entire ballpark goes eerily and ghostly silent. It is astonishing how so many people can make so little noise. Of course, reactions come after every swing, and they come loud and in unison.
The funniest reaction of all comes when Judge completes his at-bat because half the whole crowd sits back down, and the other half bolts towards to concession stand. Judge’s at-bats are almost in their own time vortex where all of reality comes to a screeching halt. I almost wonder if the silence is distracting to Judge. Even if it is, he would never admit it in public.
Oh, and if you thought his fly-out to the centerfield wall in the bottom of the 9th was a homer, so did I, and everyone else in the stadium. It is easy to laugh at in hindsight since we know what the outcome of the game was. But at the time, everyone was collectively heartbroken.
As of the time this article is written, Judge has yet to hit 61. I am not complaining, the longer this drags out, the more eyeballs on the game of baseball and the more fun we will have turning on the game every night. Enjoy the fun while it lasts, because after this is over, we enter the anxiety-driven October.
main image credit: Embed from Getty Images