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Can Judge be the best there ever was

Columnist Loren Else says $360 million is a lot to live up to.

Boomer Grandpa — Loren Else column sig
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Did you want to be the best at whatever it was you were doing?

I did, and I played all out when I competed in athletics. The result was a few ER visits. My wife wasn't happy about a headfirst slide on a rocky softball field. With blood streaming down my leg, I got the 'Really?' look.

I wanted to be the best in my profession. There's nothing wrong with this ambition if your objective doesn't consume you.

Aaron Judge, the 6-foot7-inch New York Yankee, just signed a $360 million contract to play Major League Baseball for the next nine years. Expectations will be "to the moon and back."

I'm sure most consider that amount of money ridiculous. I imagine Yankees fans will bellow a few choice adjectives at him when he goes 0-for-4 with three strikeouts during a game with the Red Sox.

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What will Aaron Judge's story be? Can he be a real-life "Roy Hobbs?"

Roy Hobbs is the fictional baseball player in the novel "The Natural" by Bernard Malamud. Hobbs possessed almost magical hitting skills. Robert Redford played Roy Hobbs in the 1984 movie "The Natural." In the film, Hobbs' persona has a couple of remarkable traits. One was his desire to be the best.

In the movie, Hobbs was asked what he hoped to accomplish? Hobbs responds with, "I want people to see me on the street and say, there goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was." That was his goal. As Hobbs' fans know, he got sidetracked along the way.

I hope Aaron Judge is successful. He carries himself in the mold of Yankees heroes that came before him. I never wish for a player to fail, and I never shout at any ballplayer or umpires, for that matter, while attending a game.

It will take a strong individual, mentally and physically, to hold up to those multi-million-dollar expectations. Will Judge have the Hobbs persona to want to be the best, to keep improving, and to stay committed to the game? Where is the incentive to be better when the checks have already been made out?

My advice to Judge is to stay focused on baseball, be a role model, and share his good fortune with those causes he cares about. He already has an All Rise Foundation, which is outstanding. He has started down the correct path, but his future will be filled with overwhelming obligations and demands from many.

Being a man about town literally destroyed the career of Yankees great Mickey Mantle.

Another emotional scene in "The Natural" movie is Hobbs, in a batting slump, and after swinging and missing at two pitches, feels a presence, a spirit in the crowd. He steps out of the batter's box and looks toward the crowd but can't see or understand what he senses, but it's inspiring and uplifting.

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Hobbs then crushes a game-winning home run and finds out that his hometown sweetheart, the woman he has never stopped loving, was in the crowd. Whether we are ballplayers, nurses, teachers or whatever your profession is, we need help. We need support and love. Someone we can share our troubles, worries and our joy with.

I read that Judge is married. He is close to his parents. This is important. He needs to surround himself with longtime friends and family. With $360 million coming his way, he needs honorable people he can trust, and people who will support his well-being in this burden he will carry.

The great Yankees player Yogi Berra said, "Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too."

I hope Judge can stay grounded — hard to do at $40 million a year. I saw this saying on a T-shirt: “Run out on that field like you’re eight years old and it’s time for recess.” That will keep you grounded.

Loren Else lives in Rochester and also writes the Post Bulletin’s “Day in History” column. Send comments and column ideas to Loren at news@postbulletin.com .

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