TAMPA, Fla. – Showtime began as Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge emerged from the Yankees dugout.
“The moment we touched the dirt, they were buzzing and ready for us to get in the cage and hit,’’ Stanton said of his first batting practice in pinstripes, paired in the same hitting group with Judge. “That was really cool. Nothing like I’ve (ever) experience in spring.’’
On a warm and bright Monday afternoon, a thousand or so fans at Steinbrenner Field cheered the appearance of Stanton and Judge, a highlight of the Yankees’ first full squad workout of spring training.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone even felt “a little bit of a rush’’ watching his right-handed sluggers – including Gary Sanchez – take aim in BP while the fans were riveted to each swing.
“It puts a little bounce in your step frankly when you see a fan base like that showing up for a workout,’’ Boone said. “It makes it seem a little more important and it’s a good way to help keep these guys as sharp as they can be.’’
Judge had to knock off a bit of rust, participating in his first outdoor BP session since November arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder.
“They had me cage up in (an indoor batting) cage for a while, so it was good to finally get out there,’’ said Judge, who belted two homers – one that cleared the left field bleachers.
Stanton lashed four homers, three to right field and one massive shot atop the left-center field scoreboard.
And in his 30 swings against catching coach Jason Brown, Sanchez hit three homers, including one over the left field pavilion.
“Gary rakes,’’ Boone said. “He’s special when he stands in that box and it was evident today.’’
Yet, attention was plainly centered on the 6-foot-6, 245 pound reigning NL MVP and the 6-foot-7, 282-pound AL Rookie of the Year.
“I know they’re here for the entertainment, but we’ve got to get our work in too,’’ said Stanton, adding that he was “playing pepper with the cage’’ on some of his mistimed swings.
Judge was just “kind of going through my normal checklist’’ in BP, which is never a max-effort exercise for him. Still, “it’s full-go. Nothing’s holding me back.’’
As for the fans’ attention, “you don’t really hear it. I’m locked in on my work,’’ Judge said. Though the crowds want to see moonshots with every swing, “I just try to stick to my work.’’
And yet, Boone hopes his sluggers will embrace BP as an event; Steinbrenner Field will open an hour early to accommodate fans wishing to witness Yankees batting practice.
“They understand the buzz, too,’’ Boone said of Stanton and Judge. “It’s always going to be something talked about,’’ whether it’s on the road or at home. “I think it’s a good thing, it helps promote our sport.
“I’m just looking forward to those two guys building the kind of relationship where they’re able to help each other.’’
Since arriving via trade from the Marlins in December, Stanton has expressed his desire to compare notes with Judge, his rare equal in size and stature.
“I’m new. I’m a dear in the headlights here,’’ Stanton said of asking Judge Yankee-related questions.
But they probably won’t get into nuts-and-bolts batting discussions until the early attention fades and the exhibition games begin.
That’s when a whole new obsession – where do you bat them in the lineup? – will start. Until then, the show is in BP.
“You can just hear it,’’ Judge said of Stanton’s home run contact. “It comes off his bat different.’’