Aaron Judge leads the way, teaching Pete Alonso the skill to master in five walks as the Yankees star plans to show how it’s done

TAMPA, Fla. — Aaron Judge set the gold standard for a contract-year performance in 2022, when he parlayed 62 home runs and the American League MVP award into a record nine-year, $360 million payday. Not to mention the title of Yankees captain as Hal Steinbrenner’s personal sweetener to the deal.

Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge, left, and Mets first baseman Pete Alonso. Credit: AP / Charlie Neibergall; Newsday / Alejandra Villa Loarca

Given the stakes, his Opening Day standoff with the Yankees’ front office and the unrelenting glare of the New York spotlight, what Judge did that season might never be duplicated. But you can bet Pete Alonso, the city’s other homegrown slugger, is  going to try for a similar Judge-ian feat.

Less than eight months away from free agency, the Mets’ first baseman is about to embark on a similar pursuit, knowing that he’s almost certain to be in the middle of a bidding war come the offseason. With that in mind, I asked Judge what advice he’d give him.

Judge said he hasn’t spoken with Alonso regarding his situation, but he figures he will at some point (the Mets will visit Steinbrenner Field for two games in four days later this month).

When Judge and Alonso do get that chance, there’s no better counselor on the subject than the Yankees’ captain. Alonso may have the top agent in the business in Scott Boras, but Judge speaks from recent firsthand experience, fully understanding the mental and physical grind — which in a contract year, for players of their profiles, can be multiplied times 10.

“I’d just tell him to go out there and be yourself,” Judge told Newsday. “Play the game and keep doing what got you in this position for the past six years. He’s had a heck of a career so far, especially playing in a big market like New York, and the numbers he’s put up have been impressive and fun to watch from across the way.

“I think the biggest advice is just go out there and focus on what you know is the most important thing: playing baseball now. You’ve got an agent, you’ve got people to worry about all that other stuff. Just go out there and play your game.”

Sounds simple enough. But below the surface, as Judge later explained, it gets more complicated trying to eliminate the distractions. That first shot at free agency is when a career reaches critical mass, and there are various psychological factors at play.

Judge and Alonso were drafted by the only teams they ever played for. Grew up in that system. Put on only this one uniform. Wore those caps to multiple All-Star Games. As the faces of their  franchises, both probably imagined themselves as irreplaceable at one time or another.

As Alonso said last month upon his arrival in camp, “I definitely have envisioned myself being a lifelong Met . . .  But I can’t predict the future.”

That’s where the business part intervenes, which can be a harsh wake-up call. For Judge, it was particularly blunt, and that came to a head on Opening Day in 2022, when he turned down a seven-year, $213.5 million extension (on top of the $17M arbitration figure for that season, a total of more than $230M overall). The Yankees publicly announced those figures shortly afterward — essentially weaponizing the offer — and Judge had to process the stinging fallout minutes before the season’s opening pitch.

The front office’s behavior obviously infuriated Judge, but he didn’t wage war in the media. For a homegrown star, it’s a slap in the face, and Alonso has been forced to swallow the fact that the Mets really didn’t pursue extension talks after David Stearns was named their president of baseball operations in November.

Stearns made it clear he’s fine going to free agency with Alonso, who stated earlier in spring training that he’d be willing to listen — but knowing full well that there would be no phone call coming. It’s only natural for spite to bubble up in these scenarios, but Judge cautioned against letting that stuff consume you.

“You could get upset if you want to,” he said. “But then I feel like that’s just where your ego comes into it. It’s about putting your ego aside. They’ve given me so much. People could say that as a player, you give [the team] so much. But they drafted me, they gave me this opportunity, they gave me a chance to live out my dream. So I’ve always been thankful for that.

“You can’t bring your ego into it. I’m a baseball player, this is a business and you’ve got to understand that.”

That should work in theory, but these guys aren’t robots, either. Performing on the Big Apple stage carries enough pressure. Now stack on the potential for a $300 million payday waiting at season’s end, all the while sweating out how every at-bat might figure into that figure. For Judge, that season was delayed by MLB’s lockout, which stemmed from labor strife, and when he did finally did take the field, the fans were fully briefed on the  fortune he turned down.

To make matters worse, Judge got off to a slow start — by his standards —  with one homer and two RBIs through his first 13 games (Judge hit 61 homers, with a 1.143 OPS, in the next 144). With the toxic atmosphere brewing in the Bronx over his contract status, Judge actually heard some boos at Yankee Stadium. And though he tried to take it in stride publicly, he stressed Saturday the importance of having a support group during such a stressful period.

“We’re all human,” Judge said. “That’s where I relied a lot on my family, my friends, my close circle of people that I can trust and talk to. Just like anybody, you’ve got to get stuff off your chest at times. Having those people to talk to helps you lock back in. But what we always ended up coming back to, ‘what can you control?’

“You can’t control the outside noise. You can’t control how people are going to react. You can’t even control the contract situation — that’s what I got agents for. What can I control? Playing baseball, being a good teammate, show up every single day. So I think that’s what helped get me through all that. Plus, everybody in this room.”

Plenty for Alonso to think about. And when Judge does talk to him, Alonso can be certain about one thing: The advice definitely paid off for the Yankees’ captain. Big time.

“Im really looking forward to what Pete does this season,” Judge said, smiling. “That’s for sure.”

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