TAMPA — Aaron Judge made the decision not to play in this year’s WBC because he had just signed his massive new contract with the Yankees and was named captain by team owner Hal Steinbrenner.
Like much of the rest of the baseball world, though, Judge kept his eye on the tournament and saw highlights of the Hollywood-style ending, as Shohei Ohtani struck out Angels teammate Mike Trout to seal Team Japan’s one-run win over Team USA for the title.
“I wish Trout would have hit a homer to keep the U.S. in the game, but any time you see two of the best in the game battle it out there on a 3-2 pitch, that’s what any baseball fan wants it to come down to,’’ Judge said Wednesday at Steinbrenner Field. “You’re never gonna see that anywhere else, with both of them from the same team and at the top of their game.”
So did the epic ending make Judge want to play in the next WBC, which MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced would be held in 2026?
Judge was noncommittal.
“It’s tough to say now since it’s three years down the road,’’ Judge said. “We’ll see when the time comes. It’s a fun, amazing event. It captivates the world. You’ve got kids everywhere staying up late watching these games, and you’ve got the best players in baseball competing. We’ll see where we are when the time comes.”
Judge was among the group that stayed in Tampa to work out at Steinbrenner Field, with the rest of the team across the state for Wednesday’s loss to Washington in West Palm Beach and Thursday’s game versus the Cardinals in Jupiter.
Judge is having another strong spring, but he’s not putting much importance on the results.
After a torrid performance in the Grapefruit League a year ago, Judge went on to have one of the best offensive seasons in the history of the sport — breaking Roger Maris’ American League home run record with 62.
“I’m treating this [spring] the same as I always do,’’ Judge said. “I just try to improve from the previous year.”
He’s never had a year like the one he had in 2022, though.
“You still have stuff to build off of,’’ Judge said. “I’m not trying to change everything. I try to keep the majority of what I’m doing the same and find two or three small things to work on.”
Asked how that process was going, Judge said, “We’ll see when the season starts. None of the numbers matter until Opening Day.”