Once upon a time, there was a man-child named Aaron Judge.
The gentle giant swung a big bat, ran a mean base path and shopped without interruption at the local produce aisle.
He was Superman in reporter’s eyeglasses, Spiderman with a camera, a larger-than-life sports star brilliantly disguised as the largest man in the room.
Those days of hiding in plain sight?
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Going, going, gone.
When the Yankees rookie ascended to the on-deck circle Friday night, everyone in the Oakland Coliseum decided this was no longer a good time to run to the bathroom.
When the former Fresno State star took his wide-legged stance at home plate branding a stick in his hands, people in the concourse stopped putting ketchup on their hot dog so they could watch.
“Hold on, babe,” a random Yankees fan told his babe. “We gotta watch.”
Everyone is watching now, from the Big Apple to the Other City by the Bay.
The A’s would like to think the crowd stayed until the ninth inning because they wanted to watch the fireworks show after Oakland’s 7-6 victory over the Pinstripes. Some of us think they stayed until that last inning because the major league leader in home runs was due to hit second.
Judge isn’t the straw that stirs the drink. In the house Reggie Jackson once played, Judge was the entire order – drink, straw and the rocks.
He’s been hitting them to the street since college, I watched him.”
Greg Morales of Sunnyvale
“Oh my gosh, Aaron Judge is a beast!” said Sean Michael O’Neal, a Bay Area defense attorney who went to school with Bulldogs coach Mike Batesole’s kids back in the day.
The P.A. guy tried to downplay who was at bat, announcing “Now batting, No. 99, Aaron Judge” as if he was reading a nutritional chart off the side of a cereal box.
The crowd wasn’t fooled as a big cheer went up. And, if you think that’s because his hometown friends were in the house, come on, all of Linden has only so much throat in its 1,800-member club.
“He’s been hitting them to the street since college, I watched him,” said Sunnyvale financier Greg Morales, whose cousin played with Judge at Fresno State.
Maybe he has, but few noticed until now. Not even two months ago, Judge was doing a Jimmy Fallon skit in downtown New York with Yankees fans who had no clue he was Aaron Judge.
“He went to Fresno State?” said Dr. Sean O’Neal, who flew in from Phoenix to watch the Father’s Day weekend game with his lawyer son. By the way, the O’Neals lived in Fresno when Judge went to Fresno State.
“Wow, he is amazing.”
A 6-foot-7 giant, hiding in plain sight.
Walk around the Coliseum this weekend and No. 99 Judge jerseys were everywhere. Big fellas, little kiddos, middle-aged mommas. Everywhere. Did we mention his shirt just became the top seller in baseball this week?
When he swung and missed in the first inning Friday, the crowd ooh’d in wonder at the breadth and sweetness of it all.
When his pop fly down the right field line re-entered the earth’s stratosphere by way of the other side of the fence, the audience wow’d in admiration.
“What a swing,” said Tobey Montgomery, a minister in Oakland who now wishes his Dallas Cowboys would draft this guy to play tight end.
Sorry, Fresno State. Judge is no longer your star.
The big-toothed version of Clark Kent belongs to the rest of America now.
1. The Dodgers lost Clayton Kershaw for a chunk last year, and won the National League West. The Giants lost Madison Bumgarner for a chunk this year, and have taken the straightest path to 100 losses. When we we say the rivals have always been polar opposites, this wasn’t the spectrum we had in mind.
2. Former Oakland A’s announcer Monte Moore was on hand for Saturday’s unveiling of the Catfish Hunter gate at the Coliseum, reminding us that the Porterville retiree was, and remains, kind of a big deal.
3. LeBron James didn’t invent the superteam model in the NBA, he says? May he should take his doublespeak talents back to South Beach.