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Woody Paige: Yankees' Aaron Judge once ruled the field in Colorado

July 11, 2017 Updated: July 12, 2017 at 8:18 am
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The most famous Judge in baseball since Kenesaw Mountain Landis was the sport's first commissioner put on a Herculean performance in the Home Run Derby.

Aaron Judge clobbered 47 home runs. He actually would have produced at least one more in the flabbergasting display if a towering shot heard 'round the baseball world hadn't become the only ball ever to ricochet off the Marlins Stadium roof.

The 6-foot-7, 282-pound Judge - who could be American League's Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player - once hit a home run in Colorado.

Who could forget?

Well, most everybody.

Except for the Air Force Falcons baseball team.

On March 22, 2013, Judge, then a junior at Fresno State, clubbed a seventh-inning home run more than 375 feet over the left fence at Falcons Field - at 7,000 feet above sea level. He already had doubled in the game, and made the last out with a grounder to short.

All Star Game Baseball
American League's New York Yankees Aaron Judge (99) strikes out in the first inning during the MLB baseball All-Star Game, Tuesday, July 11, 2017, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) 

The Falcons and the Bulldogs (who were competing in the Mountain West Conference for the first season) were scheduled for two additional games in the series, but a storm dumped seven inches of snow in Colorado Springs, canceling both. They were played when Air Force visited Fresno State later in the season.

The teams met in the conference tournament, and the Bulldogs prevailed - with Judge scorching another homer.

After hitting .369, with 12 home runs in 56 games, Judge was drafted 32nd in the 2013 baseball draft by the Yankees.

Brought up for 27 games last season, Judge managed only four homers and batted a feeble .179 (striking out 44 percent of his at-bats). A spot on the Yankees' roster this season wasn't assured until the final week of spring training as he finished at .300, but with just two home runs. However, he cut his K's by 50 percent.

Judge leads the American League in 18 offensive analytical categories, including home runs - a Yankees' rookie record (over Joe DiMaggio) with 30. He's fourth in hitting and second in runs batted in.

And Judge might just become the first player* to hit 60 home runs in a season since Yankees Babe Ruth and Roger Maris. (* I'm not counting three players associated with steroids.)

Commissioner Rob Manfred raved about Judge at his press conference in Miami before Tuesday night's All-Star Game. The Manfred Man is as impressed as the rest of us.

"He's been absolutely phenomenal. There's no other word to describe it," said Manfred, who believes that Judge is "the kind of player that can become the face of the game.''

Judge has played only 111 major-league games, so it's way early to compare him to Yankees hitting legends Ruth, Maris, DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. But such descriptive adjectives as "phenomenal,'' "remarkable,'' "extraordinary'' and "prodigious'' are apropos.

In the Home Run Derby Judge and his bat were Paul Bunyan and his axe. He hit homers to left, center and right, off the glass windows enclosing the dome stadium, up to the steel roof, into the green shrubs, over the ridiculous animatronic sculpture straight away. Four traveled more than 500 feet (501, 504, 507 and 513), an objective he announced on national TV at the beginning of the event.

"It was a blast,'' Judge said afterward.

MASTERBLASTER, the headline should have screamed. He almost effortlessly won the final utilizing only half his allotted time.

Rockies All-Star starter Charlie Blackmon - impressive in his only round, but edged out by National League Rookie of the Year cinch Cody Bellinger (15-14) - said of Judge's swing: "He's so quiet and simple that he looks like a contact hitter trapped in an ogre's body."

I haven't seen anyone produce equally impressive long balls since Giancarlo Stanton played in Coors Field.

I watched Barry Bonds slam a ball to the top of the South Stands in old Mile High Stadium. And I chased Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa around the country during their home run duel of 1998. However, the feats of those three turned out to be dubious.

Judge's "ogre'' body is, by all accounts, natural.

But he hasn't appeared in Colorado since that trip to the Air Force Academy. The Rockies and the Yankees rarely play interleague games.

World Series?

Next season the Rockies are scheduled to play teams from the American League East.

Here comes the Judge.

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