Yankee fan, who went viral for being given Aaron Judge home run ball, gets to meet Bombers’ slugger
Young Yankee fan Derek Rodriguez starts crying while meeting Aaron Judge, who gives him his batting gloves and signs his home run ball. (VAUGHN RIDLEY/Getty Images)
TORONTO — Derek Rodriguez got much more than just a baseball. The young Yankees fan became famous overnight for his emotional reaction when a Blue Jays fan handed him the Aaron Judge home run ball during Tuesday night’s Bombers win at Rogers Centre. He and his family were back at the ballpark Wednesday night, when he got to meet Judge and other Yankees.
Rodriguez and his family were joined by Mike Lanzillotta, the Blue Jays fan who gave him the ball, in the Yankees dugout before Wednesday’s game. They watched the Yankees take batting practice and when he was done, Judge joined them in the dugout.
Rodriguez, 9, cried when Judge sat down next to him and started talking to him and his brother.
And Judge said he was moved by the moment too.
“I asked who his favorite player was. He turned around and showed me his little jersey and it still gives me goosebumps to this day that little kids are wearing my number and my jersey,” Judge said. “It’s something I dreamed of. I used to be in his position. You know, just that little kid with my favorite players and teams. So that was a pretty, pretty cool moment.”
Rodriguez and his family live in Toronto, but are originally from Venezuela and are big Yankees fans. How big? Well, he is named after Yankees Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter. Tuesday night, Rodriguez and his dad had been talking with Lanzillotta before Judge crushed the sixth inning home run. When the Blue Jays fan caught the ball, he immediately turned around and gave it to the boy.
“I know I thanked him, and I hugged him,” Rodriguez said. “That’s all I remember, because I was so happy.”
Rodriguez also began crying, a moment that resonated with fans everywhere.
Lanzillotta said he knew as soon as he got his hand on the home run ball he was going to give it to Rodriguez.
“I don’t know how I didn’t cry,” Lanzillotta told reporters. “I am a pretty emotional guy.”
The video of the simple and kind gesture was caught by YES Network cameras and went viral on social media. Judge was touched when he heard about the video after Tuesday night’s game.
“It’s a special moment,” Judge said. “I was excited to meet Derek and the man who caught it, a Blue Jays fan, and for him to have that moment with a young Yankee fan. That’s a moment that’s seen around the world now. It just speaks volumes to the Blue Jays fans they have here. It is a cool little connection they got there.”
Rodriguez said he took the home run ball to school Wednesday.
“My friends and my teacher all congratulated me,” Rodriguez said before pulling the ball out of his pocket.
Judge signed the baseball and gave the boy batting gloves. He shook hands with Lanzillotta.
As Venezuelans, the Rodriguez family was also very excited to meet Gleyber Torres, who got to the dugout after Judge. The young boy hugged him tight as his father spoke with bench coach Carlos Mendoza, another fellow Venezuelan who played on a winter ball team that Derek’s father rooted for back in their home country.
“That stuff is tough to beat. That’s just one of those moments that warms your heart,” manager Aaron Boone said after watching the video from Tuesday night. “One of the things that I appreciate in major league sports is sportsmanship. When you see that from the fanbases that are battling it out… it shows just because you’re competing and you want to beat the other guy so badly it doesn’t mean you can’t be gracious, show sportsmanship. “