OAKLAND — Welcome to the Judge’s Chambers West.
Aaron Judge has been embraced in his hometown return like a conquering hero with hundreds of local fans and residents of tiny Linden, about 85 miles to the west, descending on Oakland Coliseum to just get a glimpse of their favorite son.
“There he is!” one ecstatic fan shouted out when Judge emerged from the center-field entrance Saturday during pregame stretching. And then the place went bonkers.
Judge made the long walk to his adoring fans, cheering louder and louder as he approached a crowd of hundreds who arrived early to get a glimpse or an autograph or a selfie with Judge.
Women burst into tears, some reached out to just touch him, old high school teammates embraced in a long procession of bro-hugs. They beamed with pride. Others shrugged their shoulders as nobody can really believe just how good their guy has been. Some ladies from back home even tried to pass Judge homemade gift bags and care packages as he made his way to the Yankees dugout signing as many autographs as he could.
Linden residents Chris Solorio, 23, and his little brother, Matthew, arrived to the ballpark early with a hand-drawn sign. The local booster club rented a bus to bring more than 60 people to the ballpark Saturday as Judge’s homecoming took on the feel of a local holiday.
Marian Lindo, whose son Austin was Judge’s high school quarterback, had this weekend circled on her calendar for weeks. She talked about how she used to cook the boys spaghetti dinners the night before games, how Judge used to sleep on her couch, and how he was “always the first to fold up his blanket and put his pillow away,” indicative of the gentle giant’s kind heart.
“I’m shaking!” another woman said as she tried to steady her hand to take a selfie with Judge, wiping tears from her eyes as he got close enough to touch.
Earlier in the week, Joe Girardi indicated how difficult it can be for younger players to come home, how they are crushed with ticket demands and how it can be difficult to acommodate all the requests that flood in. Judge has seemed to take it all in stride.
“That’s the thing,” he said. “I’ve got a job to do on the field, so all the off-field stuff takes care of itself. Once I get on the field, I have a job to do and I have to take care of it.”
Friday night, Judge did just that when he blasted his MLB-best 23rd home run. A family that lives just north of Linden was lucky enough to catch the ball. When he was told the father, David Nelson, is a local elementary school principal and a lifelong Yankees fan who named two of his sons Derek and Mattingly, Judge cracked a smile.
“Really?” he said. “That’s great.”
And for Judge, and the town that’s lending him to New York, a lot this week has been great.
Published at Sat, 17 Jun 2017 20:40:48 +0000