The Yankees are imploding, but batter Aaron Judge has a season for the history books.
The 30-year-old is chasing a Triple Crown and with 55 home runs as of Wednesday afternoon, he is on pace to break Roger Maris’ one-season American League home run record of 61.
Judge comes up with incredible numbers, but fans are also wondering what the key numbers are: Will No. 99 still be in pinstripes next year?
Unless the Yankees sign him to a contract extension, he will become a free agent this winter, which has led to rampant speculation about his future given his surging stock. This week, team president Randy Levine told Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman of The Post on the podcast “The Show” that the Yankees “know his worth and what he means. I don’t know what’s going on in his head. All we can do is is showing him how much we want him to remain a Yankee.”
But Judge, who is notoriously private, hasn’t tipped his hand. In fact, he’s even declined to say anything about approaching Maris’ milestone, saying, “I’ve got nothing for you. I’m just trying to do everything I can to help us win. I show up and I’m ready to go.”
A source pointed out: “He’s a good teammate, but he keeps to himself. He’s extremely guarded.”
And his closed rooms have only added more mystique to the Judge lore, which began in August 2016 when the 6-foot-7 outfielder arrived in The Bronx and hit a homer in his first major league at bat.
Fans immediately fell in love with his sleek image and saw him as a harbinger of future dominance for the team, which has not won a World Series title since 2009.
The usually stodgy corporate franchise licked up all the attention paid to their esteemed 2013 first-round design pick. During its rookie season in 2017, they created the Judge’s Chambers, a three-row courtroom-themed section in the outfield where fans dress in black robes. and white wigs. And he gave them reason after reason to cheer: He won the Home Run Derby, broke Mark McGwire’s rookie home run record and was named American League Rookie of the Year.
All-Star’s fourfold dominance has only grown, and his blockbuster performance in 2022 has even helped the team’s ratings continue to soar despite the Bronx Bombers’ nosedive this summer.
“There has been an incredible buzz around Judge’s pursuit of the home run record,” Howard Levinson, senior vice president of ad sales for the YES network, told The Post. “Each at bat by the judge is an event in itself, and we’ve seen viewership increase when it’s his turn. Our seasonal scores are significantly higher than last year – 19%.”
Judge’s prowess on the field only sparked public interest in his private life, and his reluctance to open up to fans or the media was reminiscent of another Yankee great: Derek Jeter. Judge, who describes himself as a Christian on his Instagram profile, is even more secretive than the famed shortstop.
“Jeter was private, but he didn’t mind his name being known. He was showboat private,” an insider told The Post in 2020. “Aaron is the complete opposite. He’s quiet quiet.”
Also unlike Jeter, he didn’t look for love in the pages of US Weekly or the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
During his rookie season, he dated media strategist Jen Flaum, who pointed out to the world their relationship in a Halloween Instagram post where the pair dressed as Clark Kent and Lois Lane.
But the couple broke up and, around 2019, Judge returned to his roots: He reunited with Samantha Bracksiek, 29, who he first dated during his high school days in Linden, California, a small community about 145 miles south. east of San Francisco.
The town, which has an annual cherry festival complete with a cherry pie eating contest, has united behind their native son. Even downtown Pizza Plus has turned its back room into a sanctuary for Judge and sold T-shirts that read “Straight out of Linden” with his number 99 on the back.
Judge seemed to find his way to Linden by divine intervention. When he was two days old, he was adopted by Patty and Wayne Judge, who were both teachers in town.
“I feel like they picked me,” Judge told The Post in 2015. “I feel like God was the one who brought us together.”
At about age ten, Judge, whose older brother John was also adopted, came to realize that he and his parents were nothing alike.
“So I started asking questions, and they told me I was adopted and answered all my questions, and that was that. I liked it. It really didn’t bother me, because those are the only parents I know.”
Even as a baby, Judge showed signs that he would have a commanding physical presence.
“We joked that he looked like the Michelin Tire baby,” his father said. “It wasn’t long before the four ounces of formula was just the appetizer, and it had to be the oatmeal formula to calm him down.”
At Linden High School, Judge excelled in basketball, baseball, and football, a sport that earned him scholarships from top programs, including Stanford, Notre Dame, and UCLA.
But Judge told ESPN, “I fell in love with baseball at a young age . . . It attracted me.”
He played baseball at Fresno State and Bracksieck followed him, earning both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in exercise science. Meanwhile, the couple dated during his minor league career and broke up in 2016.
After the couple quietly reunited, Bracksieck hit the headlines in 2020 when she was caught for a DUI in Arizona and her boyfriend’s name dropped during the arrest. At the time, sources said it was uncharacteristic of Bracksieck, who, like her boyfriend, flew under the radar.
The couple stayed together and tied the knot in Hawaii last December.
Most recently, they were photographed attending a US Open game, perhaps squeezing the last bit of pulp from the Big Apple.
Last October, Judge said he “wanted to be a Yankee for life.” It remains to be seen whether the couple plans to move to another city, or if the Yankees can lure the slugger back with the payday he expects.