Aaron Judge’s crowded trophy case just got even more cramped.
After taking home the American League’s Most Valuable Player honors, getting a first-team nod on the All-MLB team, grabbing a Silver Slugger award and the Sporting News’ Player of the Year, the larger-than-life figure in the Yankees’ lineup was named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year on Friday. He beat out second-place finisher Shohei Ohtani (who won the award last year) and Golden State Warriors’ sharpshooter Stephen Curry.
In case you missed it, Judge had quite the year. He set the AL record — and by extension, the Yankee record — by swatting 62 home runs and leading the Yankees to a division crown. He joins Roger Maris (whose record he broke), Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Ron Guidry as fellow Yankees to be recognized as the AP’s Male Athlete of the Year. Before Ohtani, the last two baseball players to win it were Jose Altuve in 2017 and Madison Bumgarner in 2014. Swimmer Katie Ledecky is the AP’s 2022 Female Athlete of the Year.
“Wow. That’s incredible,” Judge told the AP. “All these other great athletes not only impacted the game and their sport, but also impacted their communities and the culture in the sports world and outside the sports world. So getting a chance to be amongst that list is an incredible honor.”
The heavenly season for Judge earned him a new nine-year, $360 million deal that could very well make him a Yankee for his entire career. His .311 batting average, .425 on-base percentage, career-high 16 stolen bases and criminally underrated outfield defense showcased a brilliant all-around player, not just a brutish home run hitter.
“He’s everything,” Yankee skipper Aaron Boone said. “An amazing two-way player, one of the great players in our sport. He’s an ambassador for the game.”
Judge had one more distinction added to his docket after signing the contract. Once his long-term commitment to the Yankees became official, the team named him the 16th captain in club history and first since Derek Jeter. For a man whose every move became appointment viewing — causing some television networks to cut away from their scheduled programming to air Judge’s at-bats as he pursued the record — no level of praise seems high enough. The only thing still eluding him is a championship.
If Judge is able to deliver that, his celebrity will rise to an even higher level, well above his 6-7 frame.
“Maybe I’ve got a little bit more in the tank,” Judge said.