WASHINGTON — A day after beating Max Scherzer and the Nationals on Opening Day in an empty Nationals Park, Aaron Judge wants to get baseball fans involved in the game they can’t watch live.
In conjunction with Pepsi, the Yankees right fielder has created the Judge Free Pass Program that will connect him with fans via voice mails, contest prizes and tweets.
“Just a way to get the fans involved. It was definitely different [Thursday night] with no fans, especially going into D.C.,” Judge said early Friday afternoon. “The reigning champs and they were raising their flag and it was going to be a packed house with two aces on the mound. That was a little different. We want to find a way to get the fans involved.”
While Hal Steinbrenner hopes to have customers in big-league ballparks at some point, that is a longshot today.
For the players it was impossible to not notice the empty seats before the game. However, facing Scherzer overrode the novelty of playing a big-league game in front of nobody.
“When the game started and you got an ace like Max Scherzer, your competitive juices start and it is game time no matter where you are playing, no matter what the situation is, it is go time,” Judge said. “Just the pregame stuff, BP on the road, you got the music playing, fans cheering and the introductions. That is something every baseball player, whether it is your first Opening Day or your last one, I feel like hearing your name announced, it’s always something people look forward to.”
Even in a road park there would have been a reaction to Giancarlo Stanton’s two-run homer off Scherzer in the first inning that traveled 459 feet to left of center.
“When Stanton hit the ball out of the stadium, you kind of miss hearing those oohs and aahs and different things like that,” Judge said. “It has definitely been different. Hopefully by the end of the year at some point we have some fans in the stands and bring some of that back.”
Thursday’s 4-1 victory ended with the Yankees batting with one out in the sixth inning due to rain. It might turn out to be the Yankees’ best 5 ¹/₃ innings of the season.
Stanton homered in the first and drove in a run with an opposite-field single in the fifth off Scherzer. In between, Judge’s double to left scored Tyler Wade from first in the third.
That was more than enough support for ace Gerrit Cole, who after giving up a homer to Adam Eaton in the first inning dominated the Nationals. After Eaton’s homer, Cole retired 14 of 16 and didn’t allow another hit.
Year after year, much is made of Opening Day, but it is usually one of 162 games. Not this season. The 1-0 Yankees have 59 tilts remaining entering Saturday night’s game against right-hander Stephen Strasburg.
With Cole dominating, Stanton flexing big muscles and Judge getting two hits and driving in a run, the Yankees couldn’t have looked better.
But how good can they be?
“We have got a lot of potential. The biggest thing is staying healthy and on the field, especially in a 60-game sprint like this every game is kind of like a wild-card game,” Judge said. “If we can get that early lead and let our starter cruise for five or six innings and then we go to our nasty bullpen, it is going to be a fun year.”
Via the Judge Free Pass Program, Judge hopes to bridge the gap between fans and players.
“We miss them. That is the biggest thing, we are playing for them right now. It’s been crazy times and a lot of people have been affected by what is going on in the world, family members, friends and even work has been affected,’’ Judge said. “It is our way of getting back out there and giving them another distraction. We always play for them no matter if they are in the stands or watching at home. I don’t want them to ever forget that. Even though they are at home they are still with us on the field.”
And now those fans have another way of staying connected from outside the velvet ropes.
Share this article:
Source: Read Full Article