The New York Yankees’ YES Network has faithfully chronicled Aaron Judge’s career since he broke into Major League Baseball in 2016.
It seemed only right that the nation’s largest regional sports network televised Judge’s historic 62nd home run Tuesday night.
As Judge struggled to best Roger Maris’ American League single-season home record, Yankees games were carried by national networks such as ESPN, Fox Sports, MLB Network, and even Apple TV+.
YES and Yankees fans had to hope that the stars would align for Judge to make history on the team’s hometown network — and that YES play-by-play announcer Michael Kay would be on the microphone.
Despite all the backstage politicking (including the attempted intercession of New York Attorney General Letitia James), that’s exactly what transpired.
“I’m very satisfied. I’m glad it didn’t happen on Apple, I’m glad it didn’t happen on Fox. I’m glad the entire country was watching us,” said Troy Benjamin, the Yankees game producer for YES. “Everything you see documented? YES Network did it. So damn right. I’m satisfied as hell.”
Judge’s historic home run chase has produced big TV numbers for YES:
- Tuesday’s game averaged 636,000 total viewers, peaking at 933,000 in the New York DMA from 8:15-8:30 pm ET.
- YES is posting its best season in 11 years in terms of ratings, with Yankees games averaging 371,000 total viewers.
- This season, 45 Yankees games have averaged over 400,000 viewers, as opposed to nine last year.
Still, tracking Judge was a major challenge for the team at YES.
The big slugger went five games between hitting home runs 61 and 62. Every time he came up to bat, YES’s entire broadcast team — from Kay to Benjamin and game director Dan Barr — had to be ready to document history.
The Yankees were batting Judge at leadoff to give him more at-bats, so the YES crew had to be ready from the jump.
For Tuesday night’s doubleheader against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field, the network manned eight cameras of its own, while hiring another eight Texas-based camera operators and another seven tape operators.
The boom-bust cycle surrounding every Judge at-bat forced YES to adapt its coverage.
Ultimately, YES is proud of the job it did, but Benjamin admitted the pressure was draining for all involved.
“Nobody covers the Yankees like we do. It was definitely poetic justice,” Benjamin said. “We set up for this. We’ve had everything in place for the Judge moment. No one else could have captured it like we did.”