Yankees in London: Aaron Judge discovers introductions are needed across the pond

LONDON — Aaron Judge is learning the limits of his fame. Walking around London the last two days, the 6-foot-7 face of the Yankees’ franchise would run into people wearing Yankee hats, simply as accessories  “They had absolutely no idea who I was. So I said, ‘Hey, I am Aaron, great to meet you,” Judge said with a laugh Friday afternoon “I guess I’ve got to start introducing myself around to people with Yankees hats ”  That, essentially, is why the Yankees and Red Sox are here this weekend, playing the first ever regular season Major League Baseball games in Europe “An old rivalry on new ground,” the tagline for the London Series is a subtle reminder that this is all about how MLB sees the European market as a fresh ground for growing their potential fan/customer base  That is why Aaron Boone took part in a local clinic for kids on Thursday while his family was out sightseeing  “We want to grow our game,” the Yankee manager said. “I feel like if we can light a few more fires with fans, with kids about our game, that helps We’re bringing over, obviously, a lot of great players that are easy to attach to and become big time fans of and if we can spread that fire just a little bit, then it will have been a good trip for us  “We do have a responsibility to grow it and continue to pass it on and hopefully something that starts to grow it in London, in England and all across Europe ”  Friday, the Yankees and Red Sox got back to work — kind of.  They worked out at Olympic Stadium on the freshly created ballpark in the home stadium of the West Ham football team They took batting practice and did some defensive drills on the turf field. It was still focused on the promotions with players, coaches and executives mingling on the field with media and some celebrities Manchester City star Raheem Sterling chatted with CC Sabathia before the workout In between songs, emcees interviewed the likes of Reggie Jackson and Spike Lee.  Amid all the chaos on the field Friday, however, guys were seriously testing out this newly created field Gary Sanchez was hitting batting practice balls over the batter’s eye in dead center field just 385 feet away (with the 117 4 meter mark just below it to make the game more friendly to the European audiences) Didi Gregorius and DJ LeMahieu were testing the hops of ground balls off the turf onto the dirt, which was described as “hard and fast,” by several players Aaron Hicks was trying to figure out how far back he will play defense in center field (starting at the warning track, probably) and Brett Garnder was examining the nooks and crannies of the huge amount of foul territory  Because after all the promotional events, the sight-seeing and meeting European fans is done, the Yankees and Red Sox are also still in a race, albeit not a very tight one, for the American League East The Yankees go into Saturday’s game with a nine-game lead over the Red Sox and a 6 5-game lead over the Rays.  The real business side of this trip was easily lost in the fanfare Friday, with the questions about sightseeing, Yankees logos as fashion accessories, cricket, rugby, soccer and their responsibility to represent the game here in Europe It was, however, apparent in those detailed preparations the players were making  “I think tomorrow it will be easy to remember, once we get between the lines, it’s a Yankees-Red Sox game,” Hicks said “That always gets you going.”  That had to be a concern for the Yankees, who were very vocal in their desire to win the division this year   In a sport where the players thrive on their routines, this is a total disruption Other than the All-Star break, players never have two scheduled off-days in a row during the season The Yankees and Red Sox have three days off in five days, which is like a mini vacation While the flight here was only a little longer than a trip to the West Coast, the five-hour time difference is the largest the players will face this season The obstacles are there, Judge admitted.  “You mention the jet lag, and the new stadium and all that,” Judge said of the obstacles on this trip, “but we’ve got to face the defending world champions, so that’s always tough Playing Boston, they are a tough team. No matter the standings. That’s a tough team  “After a couple days, we’ll get acclimated, but really, the toughest challenge is facing another major league team And it will be fun. Hopefully we’ll show the fans here a good game.”

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