NEW YORK (AP) — Aaron Judge was appointed captain of the New York Yankees on Wednesday, becoming the first team captain since Derek Jeter retired at the end of the 2014 season.
Judge, the reigning American League MVP, agreed to a $360 million, nine-year contract to remain in pinstripes.
“This is an incredible honor I don’t take lightly,” Judge said at a news conference at Yankee Stadium, with Jeter sitting a couple seats away.
As Judge pursued Roger Maris’ American League home run record and set a new mark with 62, some teammates started publicly lobbying for him to become captain, among them first baseman Anthony Rizzo and pitcher Nestor Cortes.
New York had six previous captains in the Steinbrenner family era: Thurman Munson (1976-79), Graig Nettles (1982-84), Willie Randolph (1986-88), Ron Guidry (1986-89), Don Mattingly (1991-95) and Jeter (2003-14). Randolph was in the audience on Wednesday.
“He’s a great Yankee on the field, off the field. leadership off the charts,” owner Hal Steinbrenner said.
Judge sat on a dais at Yankee Stadium between his wife, Samantha, and Steinbrenner. Flanking them were Jeter; Judge’s agent, Page Odle; Yankees president Randy Levine; general manager Brian Cashman; manager Aaron Boone and chief operating officer Lonn Trost.
Judge homered in his first big league at-bat for the Yankees in 2016, and the 6-foot-7 outfielder has become a larger-than-life figure in the Bronx. He was voted AL Rookie of the Year in 2017 and helped New York reach the playoffs in each of the last six seasons.
A four-time All-Star, he hit .311 this year and tied for the major league lead with 131 RBIs.
Owner George Steinbrenner decided to make Jeter captain in June 2003, having the team announce the decision at a news conference in Cincinnati when the Yankees were in town to play the Reds. Hal Steinbrenner took over from his father as the Yankees’ controlling owner in November 2008.
Earlier Yankees captains included Clark Griffith (1903-05), Kid Elberfeld (1906-08), Willie Keeler (1909), Hal Chase (1910-11), Frank Chance (1913 to midseason), Rollie Zelder (1913 midseason until end), Roger Peckinpaugh (1914-21), Babe Ruth (1922) and Lou Gehrig (1935-39).
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