Aaron Judge Fired Himself Up for ALDS by Watching 2017 Wild Card

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New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge made a lot of news yesterday during his ALDS Workout Day press conference. It started with the shirt he chose to wear, which was a variation of the Major League Baseball logo.The tee depicted Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner banging the top of a dugout with his bat in the space where you would usually find the MLB logo.

It’s an allusion to Gardner’s bat-banging tirades, which have become legendary among the Yanks and their fan base this season. Taking proper care of your bats is an important issue at all levels of baseball. Selecting the right bat matters a lot too. The titanic slugger also proclaimed 100% fitness, saying that his previously banged-up right shoulder is fine.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the news conference though was when Judge discussed what he’s doing to get fired up for the American League Division Series, which begins tonight at Yankee Stadium when his club, the AL East champions, hosts the AL Central champion Minnesota Twins.

 Aaron Judge broke out the game tape of the 2017 wild-card victory, when the Bronx Bombers fell behind 3-0 to  the Twins in the first inning, but tied it up by the bottom of the inning on a three-run homer by Didi Gregorius.

New York would go on to win 8-4.

“In ’17, we got down early, the crowd stayed in it,” Judge said.

“All of a sudden, I’m watching Didi’s homer on repeat, watching the crowd get electric and back into it. I love watching that. I love watching ’17, us getting up (three runs by the fourth inning), the players dominating, the fans feeding off that, us feeding off the fans, just everything about it. I’m just getting excited for October baseball.”

This will be the sixth postseason match-up between Minnesota and New York, with the Yanks winning all of the previous five (2003 ALDS, 2004 ALDS, 2009 ALDS, 2010 ALDS, and the aforementioned 2017 ALDS play-in game).

This is just the second time the ALDS featured a match-up of two 100-win teams, as Twins won 101 and the Yankees won 103. Judge is also motivated by his team’s falling short of winning it all the past two seasons, where they fell to the eventual World Series champion both times.

In 2017, they lost to the Houston Astros in the ALCS in seven games, and last year they got bounced by their arch-rival Boston Red Sox in four games of a best of five.

“Any year you’re not the last-man standing, the season is a fail,” Aaron Judge continued.

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 “Each year, it left a bad taste in my mouth, especially Game 7 in Houston, Game 4 here at home (last year), losing on our home turf to our rivals (in Game 5). Never a good taste going into the off-season, but (for) a lot of guys, that keeps us hungry.”

“That’s kind of how I always saw it … We’re getting closer and getting to learn.”

“My biggest motivator and biggest lessons I’ve learned is always from failure. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but it can always be one of your biggest motivators.”

While the Yankees are far and away the most historically successful club in baseball history (27 titles, 40 pennants and 19 division championships), they haven’t been to the World Series in a decade.

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Their last seven Octobers have ended in a round that was shy of the Fall Classic.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link.

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