Yankees name Aaron Judge 16th captain in franchise history

NEW YORK -- There is a new captain in pinstripes.

The Yankees named Aaron Judge as the new captain of the team on Wednesday in a news conference announcing his new nine-year, $360 million contract. Judge becomes the 16th captain in team history and the first since Derek Jeter, who held the title from 2003 through 2014.

"It's difficult to imagine the Yankees without Aaron," Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said.

Steinbrenner asked Judge to be the captain of the Yankees after the two sides agreed to the contract. Judge said the offer shocked him into silence.

"I was taken aback. You look at this list of individuals who have this title, it's such an honor," Judge said.

The slugger signed the largest deal in Yankees history after hitting a record-breaking 62 home runs in 2022. Despite receiving competitive offers from the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres, Judge ultimately decided to return to the franchise that drafted him in the first round of the 2013 draft.

Judge said he needed to consider other teams in free agency but he did not want to leave New York.

"In my heart, I knew where I wanted to be, but this process was a valuable lesson," Judge said. "It helped me come to a clear answer that I belong in New York."

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he first saw Judge's leadership qualities when Boone was an ESPN baseball analyst, noticing "the gentleness" in his interactions with people and how others reacted to him.

"In a lot of ways, it was an obvious choice," Boone said. "He's been developing into that the last couple of seasons. Now that he will be in pinstripes forever, the natural next step is the captaincy."

Steinbrenner met with Judge in Tampa, Florida, at the beginning of the offseason and made it clear to the slugger that he wanted him in pinstripes for life. While on vacation in Italy, Steinbrenner made a call to Judge to try to close the deal.

"I told him you're not a free agent; you're a Yankee," Steinbrenner said.

As Judge neared a decision on his future, Steinbrenner said he pulled over on the side of a highway in Italy and called the superstar outfielder, who picked up the phone at 3 a.m. local time in California.

"I wanted to know what was important to him and his family," Steinbrenner said.

Judge said he wanted to continue to build his legacy in New York and that the choice to stay was a family decision, after consulting with his wife, Samantha, and his parents.

"We came to the decision that was in our hearts, which was that we wanted to be in New York," he said.

Judge expressed excitement about the team's other moves this off-season -- highlighted by the signing of pitcher Carlos Rodon -- and said he thinks the team is close to winning a championship.

"There's a lot of unfinished business here in New York," Judge said. "I'm looking forward to finishing that business."

Ultimately, he said he could not imagine himself playing for another team.

"My blood, sweat and tears have gone into playing for this team," Judge said. "This is family."