Ex-Fresno State star Aaron Judge ripping ball as Class-A All-Star

The Fresno BeeJune 16, 2014 

Ever since Aaron Judge put on a Charleston RiverDogs baseball jersey, the former Fresno State star has made things look easy

Judge ended the first half as the Class-A South Atlantic League batting leader with a .333 average that includes 15 doubles, two triples, nine home runs and 45 RBIs -- numbers that have added up to an appearance in Tuesday's 55th annual South Atlantic League All-Star Game at L.P. Frans Stadium in Hickory, N.C.

"Such a blessing and a great honor," said Judge, who soon could get promoted to Advanced Class-A Tampa of the Florida State League.

"Getting that (named an All-Star) is like a team award for me. A lot of great guys around me are just getting on base. It's an honor and I'm blessed to be here, and I want to keep moving forward."

Still, the 22-year-old had a little catching up to do this spring. After he was drafted last year by the New York Yankees in the first round and agreed to a $1.8 million signing bonus, Judge was sent for workouts at the Yankees' complex in Tampa, Fla., and sustained a quadriceps injury that forced him to miss all of the season.

"It was pretty tough," said the 6-foot-7 right fielder from Linden. "After you get drafted, you know, you want to prove yourself and show people, 'Hey this is what I'm about.' Not being able to play baseball was tough for me."

Judge, though, found himself rehabbing with New York captain Derek Jeter and former Yankees Kevin Youkilis and Curtis Granderson.

"It was kind of a blessing in disguise," Judge said. "I got to see a lot of the big-league guys rehabbing down in Tampa. Picked their brain a little bit, and it was a cool experience that helped me this year. I asked a lot of questions and spent a lot of time with Curtis Granderson. He helped me with outfield stuff.

"I was in the training room and I looked across and there was Jeter on the table right across from me. It was a surreal moment."

Among his highlights this season, Judge hit home runs in three consecutive days.

"He's a big-league hitter," RiverDogs manager Luis Dorante said on a pregame show. "He has great patience at the plate, and some tremendous power. He can really play."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi saw first-hand what Judge can do when he took batting practice before a game in Oakland last season.

"He can hit some homers," Girardi told a group of reporters. "The ball really jumps off his bat. ... Strong kid. He can hit line drives out of the ballpark. You think that they're good line drives in the gap, and they just keep going. He was pretty impressive."

Judge, who grew up a San Francisco Giants fan, said getting drafted by the Yankees was a "life-changing experience and a dream come true."

"It's a great opportunity," he said. "It's like growing up and wanting to be a baseball player and when you get drafted it's unbelievable."

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

Aaron Judge's hitting numbers at the All-Star break for Class-A Charleston.

SITUATION: HR RBI AVG OPS

• vs. LHP: 1 12 .356 .994

• vs. RHP: 8 33 .328 .947

• Bases empty: 5 5 .282 .879

• Runners on: 4 40 .385 1.038

• RISP: 3 37 .356 1.059

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6042, agalaviz@fresnobee.com or @agalaviz_TheBee on Twitter.

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