NEW YORK (AP) — The verdict is in: Rookie slugger Aaron Judge is getting his own rooting section at Yankee Stadium.
Now in session, The Judge’s Chambers.
Framed by faux wood paneling, covering three rows and fashioned to fit 18 fans wearing black judicial robes with the Yankees’ logo on the front and his No. 99 on the back, this court opened on Monday night.
New York hosting Kansas City was first on the docket. Looking like a jury box, ballpark style, with proper lettering at the back of Section 104, just behind where he plays right field.
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Judge leads the majors with 15 home runs, most of them hit very far and very hard. Huge at 6-foot-7, he was humbled when the team approached him with the concept. After all, this is a tradition-laden franchise that doesn’t often do things to single out players, even Bronx Bombers.
“I was shocked, you know. I was surprised,” Judge said.
After going 0 for 3 as the Yankees beat the Royals 4-2, he marveled at the honor only two months into his first season in the big leagues.
“It’s pretty unreal,” he said. “So soon.”
Unlike the King’s Court in Seattle for ace Felix Hernandez or the Mannywood area that once developed at Dodger Stadium for Manny Ramirez, people won’t be able to buy tickets in The Judge’s Chambers.
Instead, a cross-section of fans will be chosen to sit there. At first, those wearing Judge jerseys and T-shirts inside the stadium likely will get picked, along with their families.
The plan is to branch out for community groups, charity organizations, Little Leagues, schools, hospitals and others to occupy the space.
Who knows, maybe someday even a real judge will preside. In 2012, Bronx-born U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor sat with the Bleacher Creatures for their noted “Roll Call” before a game.
“It’s pretty cool,” Judge said. “When you come to a game, it’s supposed to be fun for the players and fans. I think it turned out great.”
Those selected for this section with get Styrofoam gavels — stamped with “All Rise!”— to tap against the bench, along with other mementoes to keep. The robes, those stay.
Zach Venezio and Sophie Topouzoglou had seats near the Royals’ dugout. But they gladly moved into the newly created spot when presented the opportunity to sit 20 rows behind Judge.
“I was on board right away,” Venezio said. “This is awesome. I even wore my Aaron Judge shirt out here tonight. I love the way he plays.”
Judge waved to his cheering section when he took the field before the top of the first inning, and lobbed a ball in that direction after warming up.
“It’s exciting, that’s all I can really say,” Judge said. “All the off-the-field stuff, the promotions, they’re great. But I’ve still got a job to do on the field. If I’m not doing my job on the field, all this other stuff wouldn’t be happening.”
The Yankees started to think about a section for Judge in spring training. His success on the diamond and his interaction with fans — he likes to play catch with kids in the stands — made this an easy decision for the club.
“Aaron’s a unique and engaging player and The Judge’s Chambers is a reflection of that,” Yankees spokesman Jason Zillo said.
As Judge’s production increased, so did his popularity.
The Yankees took to punctuating his home runs with the distinctive thump-thump from “Law & Order.” Earlier this month, a group of friends showed up in the right field seats wearing black robes and judicial wigs.
Like the Wolf Pack that howled for pitcher Randy Wolf in Philly or Sheff’s Chefs who wore their hats for Gary Sheffield in Atlanta or the Coneheads way back at Shea Stadium, the crowds drove this move.
“It was the fans’ enthusiasm over the last few months that allowed us to act upon this idea,” Zillo said.
The section was built last week while the Yankees were on the road.
And if all goes well down the road, maybe Judge might sport a judicial robe himself.
“It’d have to be extra tall, I think,” he said, smiling. “They’d have to find an extra tall one.”
“I might have to. One of these days, you might get me into one. We’ll see,” he said.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball