TORONTO — Aaron Judge sent a piece of history 394 feet to left field in the seventh inning on Wednesday night at Rogers Centre, long enough to clear the wall for his 61st home run, but just short enough to evade the grasp of rabid fans.
Minutes later, Zack Britton was on the job to retrieve it.
The ball landed in the safe haven otherwise known as the Blue Jays’ bullpen, where bullpen coach Matt Buschmann first got hands on it before it ended up with closer Jordan Romano.
A member of the Yankees’ security team and a clubhouse staffer were soon staked out behind a row of chairs in the bullpen, but the ball remained with Romano until Britton made his way over from the Yankees’ bullpen in right field.
“By the time I got over there, Romano saw me coming and he was just like, ‘Hey, here you go,’ ” Britton said after the 8-3 win. “He was good. It was great, he made it easy. … He handed it to me and I said, ‘I appreciate it.’ If there was anything they wanted, I’ll see what I can do with Judge.”
With the easy exchange — likely far less challenging than if a fan had ended up with the ball — Britton suddenly was holding the baseball that tied Roger Maris’ American League and franchise record for single-season home runs, which had stood since 1961.
“It was cool. You’re holding history,” Britton said. “Some of the bullpen guys, we were joking about our negotiations with Judge, what that was going to be like. But I think it’s just a big moment. The ball was just a small piece of it. He had to go do it. I just think it’s nice for him to get that. Romano was great, so we appreciate that.”
Judge said he appreciated Romano delivering the ball to Britton, calling it a “class-act move.”
Britton was not sure why he was the designated Yankees reliever to go secure the baseball from the Blue Jays bullpen. He joked that he probably should have been warming up, since he entered the game minutes later in the bottom of the seventh inning. But after the Yankees’ security detail had gone over some 10 minutes earlier and had not yet come back, he wanted to go see for himself.
“For Judge just to be able to have that without the — you know the negotiations if that went into the stands and who knows?” Britton said. “I don’t think it matters as much as maybe people think. The fact that he’s there and he’s going to continue to probably hit some more home runs, it’s just nice that he got that out of the way here. We can go back to New York and you know the fans are going to be super excited to watch him continue to hit.”