Here is a complete list of things I know about Aaron Judge: He is the rookie right fielder for the Yankees. He bats and throws right. He wears No. 99. He mashes dingers. And he is very, very large.
Look at this great big baseball boy sliding into second base and STILL nearly interfering with Logan Forsythe’s throw (Forsythe is listed at 6’1).
That’s it. That’s all I know. I don’t know that handsome homer boy’s age, nor do I care to. His height, perhaps, is 6’7, but measuring him feels like cutting down an oak to learn its age. I have never heard his voice, though I imagine it is deep and booming.
What I don’t know about the Yankees’ large adult son could fill a book, and I have filled that book with myths of his size. How old is he? No one really knows, I’ll say, clenching a corncob pipe in my teeth. People say he was 4 or 5 when the MacPhersons found him in their orchard, standing on his toes to pluck apples from the tallest branches. Where’s he from? Oh, here and there. Hard to be from any one place when three steps in any direction takes you over the state line. The less I know, the stronger his legend.
The flabbergasting thing about my love for our Baseball Hodor is that I hate the Yankees. I have hated the Yankees for as long as I have been aware of baseball, well before the late-’90s dynasty gave me a reason to. I hate Yankee fans. I hate Yankee Stadium, with its dedication to the cloying “God Bless America,” stringent bag-check policy, and extreme price gouging (egregious even for New York City and baseball stadiums). I hate Derek Jeter’s blandness and his PR website that gives athletes masthead positions for the work of ghostwriters.
If the Yankees were erased from history — no Babe Ruth, no Lou Gehrig, no Mantle or Yogi Berra or Mariano Rivera or iconic “NY” logo designed by Tiffany and Co. — my only reaction would be some ephemeral disappointment at the disappearance of their collapses in the ’95 ALDS and ’04 ALCS. They’re worthy villains, but ones I’d be happy without.
So, it’s tough. On one hand, I have 30 years of hating a vile, pompous franchise with every fiber of my being. On the other hand, one of their players is young and large — VERY large, not to mention lowkey thicc (the butt helps jack dingers). And dammit if that big thicc bat boi isn’t uppercutting baseballs into the ionosphere. It’s a dilemma. I would as soon hate a Leonberger puppy in pinstripes.
Part of Judge’s appeal is scarcity, as well. Very tall baseball players have a place: on the mound. The advantage (a shorter response time for batters) is so clear, and the disadvantage of batting so plainly obvious that it takes a freakish talent to even knock on the door of the bigs as a large adult batter. Frank Thomas and Jim Thome are the obvious cornerstones in the Big Boy Hall of Fame, but Richie Sexson may be more representative of the tall man’s curse: the power of a Greek god, but also a strike zone the size of Crete, and a hole in his swing to match.
The most recent crop of big baseball boys is even less fulfilling: Calvin Pickering, Nate Freiman, and Kyle Blanks are all frankengolems who have toiled in anonymity and through injuries to become little more than Bigfootnotes to history. Friends, we have earned Aaron Judge. We deserve this tall strong jar of American Vegemite.
Let’s enjoy this moment now, while our beefy adolescent giantling is still swatting baseballs into orbit with uprooted redwoods and avoiding any kind of scrutiny from the vampiric back pages of New York’s daily rags. The baseball season is long, seasons-long, interminably long, and daily games and scouting reports have a way of bringing rookies — even our tallest and tastiest hunks of baseball nougat — down to earth. A slump will make our precious young King Dong appear human.
So what are we to do? Spread the myth of Danny Almonte’s major league brother, our large adult pinstriped son, a baseball jager smiting the kaiju of indifference.