Anaheim — Aaron Judge took a look at the front row for Shuhei Ohtani’s tryout last week at Angel Stadium, prompting teammates who were amazed at the Angels’ star mechanics at the plate. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the American League’s single-season home run record was challenged this season.
That mark, of course, has belonged to Judge since last October 4, when he hit his 62nd home run to top the 61-year-old mark set by Yankees great Roger Maris. To hear the judge say that, there is room for Otani at the top of the list.
“Records are set to be broken,” the judge said on Wednesday. “It’s just a record. It’ll be interesting for the game if he goes out there and gets a 63-plus. We’ll see what happens.”
Otani entered the play on Wednesday with 35 buddies, the latest of which was Monday’s crush on the Yankees’ Michael King. Ohtani was a hotshot, batting . 429 (12-for-28) with four homers and eight RBIs over seven straight games.
“It’s unbelievable,” said the judge. “I don’t like to watch him in person, when he plays against us, and do his thing, but it’s fun when you turn on the TV and see him throw eight innings, hit 10 and hit two homers in a match.”
“I’m excited about what he’s done so far and I’m looking forward to what he does as well when we get out of town here.”
It should be noted that Judge was nearly up to speed in 2022 when he hit the right field wall at Dodger Stadium on June 3.
While Judge’s numbers are frozen at 19 batters in 49 games — remarkably, he still leads the team in homers and RBIs (40) — he’d like to take another crack at 62 and beyond in future seasons.
“I still have a few years left in this game,” Judge said. “If he breaks it, it will give me another chance to go out there and try to do something special. But I’m not focusing too much on that at the moment. I always wish him the best and always excited to see what he can achieve, but I’m not too worried about the record at the moment.”
Ohtani seems to have taken the increased interest with ease, and would probably benefit from following the judge’s example. This past season, Judge has largely kept his focus on helping the Yankees win games, be it on offense or defense. The pressure of chasing a home run didn’t seem to seep through until he got into the 50s.
“The hardest thing for me was when I was close to 62,” said the judge. “I’ve been leading the game, and I’ve never come out of a game where it’s completely silent and everyone’s standing like that. It was a shock to me, because I’m here to play baseball, and I’m not worried about any record. I wanted to go out and help my team win.”
“I had a double against Pittsburgh and Boston, and there was almost a sense that the fans were upset. I understand they want to see history, so I think that was the hardest thing for me, trying to keep my focus. We still have a game to play.”
There is one aspect of Ohtani that Judge would like to borrow, and it’s not the show side.
“I like the way the lower half works,” said Judge. I tried to tap his little toe like he does. I was already talking to him [Anthony] Volpe during the game the other day, and I was like, “This is what I wanted my toe to look like, what it does.” I haven’t mastered it yet. I still have a few more years to go.
“He’s doing a good job. He stays in baseball and has power across the board. When he comes to the plate, right now, you just don’t want to risk him.”
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