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‘This is an incredible honor’ – Boston Herald

It’s been a long time coming, but the Bombers have their heir to the throne as Aaron Judge was named the 16th captain in the storied history of the Yankees.

While the Bombers made their nine-year commitment to Judge official, Hal Steinbrenner handed over the captaincy with former captains Derek Jeter and Willie Randolph in attendance at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.

“It goes without saying what an honor it is [being named captain],” Judge said. “I look back at the list of Thurman Munson, Lou Gehrig, Ron Guidry, Willie Randolph, Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly, that’s a pretty good list right there.

“This is an incredible honor that I don’t take lightly. I’m going to continue to try to be the same leader that I’ve been the past six years.”

The 2022 AL MVP joins an exclusive club as captain of the pinstripes. Aaron Boone and Yankees’ brass alluded to the manner in which his teammates and the entire organization talk about Judge as to why he has earned the title. A title that was given to him nearly as soon as a deal was agreed upon over the phone with Steinbrenner.

The 30-year-old who wowed Yankee fans with his successful quest to break Roger Maris’ American League single-season home run record, fills the void left by Jeter in 2014. Jeter, a self-proclaimed Yankee historian, was flown from Miami to New York — to Judge’s surprise — by Steinbrenner so he could be present for the passing of the torch ceremony.

“I know there were a lot of whispers, calls and wants for Aaron to be named captain from what I understand,” Jeter said. “He deserves it and I’m sure Yankee fans are extremely happy.

“I’ve gotten to know him a little bit better over the past few months. But in terms of mindset and what’s most important in terms of winning, he has that same mindset [as me].”

Jeter didn’t want to get too far into the comparisons between Judge and himself, however, he gave a nod of approval to the move to fill his old spot.

“Talk to his teammates, talk to his coaches, talk to his manager, I mean, Booney spoke for what? 35 minutes? [at the press conference]. You listen to everyone speak about him and that tells you all you need to know.

“Really, what I say doesn’t matter, because I’m not around him every single day. But all the guys that are, not just this year, I think you heard it in years prior, [the way they talk about him] is all you need to know.”

It was an uncomfortable and unfamiliar experience this offseason for the Yankees while they were watching their future captain date other people in free agency.

Of course, Jeter’s free agency in 2010 produced similar drama — and hard feelings between the team’s biggest star and GM Brian Cashman — before the five-time World Series champ re-signed on a three-year deal.

“I was angry about it because I was the one that said I didn’t want to do it, that I wasn’t going to do it,” Jeter said in December 2010 of the Yankees’ challenge for him to test the market.

There was a very real belief amongst the Yankees that Judge could end up playing somewhere else. Although Steinbrenner was adamant in the process telling Judge that “you are going to be a Yankee,” there were other suitors including the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres ready to break the bank for a new face of their franchise.

With negotiations being so delicate — the Bombers had a lot to lose — the owner wanted to make sure that the captaincy was not seen as a negotiation tactic rather than something earned.

“No, [it was not part of negotiations],” said Steinbrenner. “After we agreed to a deal on that phone call that’s when I asked him. I told him that I didn’t want this to be perceived as a negotiating tool to try and incentivize you to come back, it’s too noble of a thing.”

One thing was clear for the Yanks throughout the free agency process: Aaron Judge’s return was more than just an on-the-field baseball move, Cashman even admitted to reporters that this was a player that the global brand of the New York Yankees could not afford to lose beyond the win-loss column.

That was made clear when the ‘C’ was handed over to No. 99.


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