TORONTO (Neth.) – Aaron Judge sent a swath of history 100 yards into left field in the seventh inning Wednesday night at Rogers Center, long enough to clear the wall for his 61st home run, but just short enough to avoid the clutches of rabid fans.
Minutes later, Zack Britton was at work picking it up.
The ball ended up in the safe harbor, also known as the Blue Jays bullpen, where bullpen coach Matt Buschmann first got his hands on the ball before landing with closer Jordan Romano.
A member of the Yankees’ security team and a clubhouse staffer were soon evicted from behind a row of seats in the bullpen, but the ball stayed with Romano until Britton made his way from the Yankees’ bullpen into right field.
“By the time I got there, Romano saw me coming and he just said, ‘Hey, here you go,'” said Britton after the 8-3 win. “He was good. It was great, he made it easy. … He gave it to me and I said, ‘I appreciate it.’ If they wanted anything, I’ll see what I can do with Judge.”
With the easy exchange—probably far less challenging than if a fan had gotten the ball—Briton suddenly had baseball in his hands that equaled Roger Maris’ American League and franchise record for home runs in one season, which had stood since 1961.
“It was cool. You’ve got history,” Britton said. “Some of the bullpen guys, we joked about our negotiations with Judge, what that would be like. But I think it’s just a big moment. The ball was only a small part of it. He had to go do it. I just love that he gets that. Romano was great, so we appreciate that.”
The judge said he appreciated Romano delivering the ball to Britton, calling it a “class-act move.”
Britton wasn’t sure why he was the designated Yankees reliever to secure baseball from the Blue Jays bullpen. He joked that he probably should have warmed up, as he came into the game minutes later in the bottom of the seventh inning. But after the Yankees security detail had passed by about 10 minutes earlier and hadn’t come back yet, he wanted to go see for himself.
“For judge to just be able to have that without the — you know the negotiations if that went down in the stands and who knows?” said Britton. “I don’t think it matters as much as people might think. The fact that he’s there and he’ll probably hit more home runs, it’s just nice that he got that out of the way here. We can go back to New York and you know the fans will be super excited to see him keep hitting.”