Tim McIntosh had been a teammate of Derek Jeter’s and a roommate of Mariano Rivera’s, so he had a deep understanding of what greatness looked like when, as a Yankees scout, he first saw Aaron Judge play high school ball.
And this is what McIntosh came away thinking of the mountainous slugger from tiny Linden, Calif.:
“There was nothing there,” McIntosh told The Post.
Nothing that should interest a big-league club.
Some other scouts felt the same way. One from the Giants told McIntosh that Judge was “the one guy who, when he hits the ball back at the [batting practice] screen, I don’t flinch. There’s nothing coming off the bat.”
One Red Sox scout who had hopped on a plane to see the kid play for the Linden High Lions turned to McIntosh during a game and said, “Are you f—in’ kidding me? They fly my ass out here, and [Judge] can’t even play dead.”
These critiques were only confirming what McIntosh had seen with his own eyes. He had already lived a significant baseball life as a third-round pick of the Twins in 1986, as a former batting champion in the Cape Cod League (.392) and as a catcher/outfielder/first baseman who played for three major league teams over five seasons, including a brief stay with the 1996 Yankees, the team that launched the Jeter/Rivera dynasty.
“And George [Steinbrenner] screwed me out of a World Series ring,” McIntosh said. Four years later, the Steinbrenner family business made it up to him by hiring him as a Yankees scout.
By the time he saw a teenage Judge, McIntosh had left baseball and become a winery owner before returning to the Yanks first as a minor league coach and then as an amateur scout in Northern California. He knew his way around the area’s cherry farms before hearing about Judge through family connections — McIntosh’s then-wife was a TV personality who grew up in Linden. A cousin had coached Judge in basketball and reported that he was a good kid but a bit “soft,” about the worst adjective that can be applied to an athlete.
McIntosh lived 10 minutes from Linden, so Judge’s underwhelming tools didn’t stop him from attending five or six of his games. The scout admitted he was only covering his ass because of Judge’s size — the prospect was well on his way toward becoming the fully formed 6-foot-7, 282-pound Yankee he is today. McIntosh even pestered his national cross-checker, Kendall Carter, into taking a look at Judge as a favor.
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Carter didn’t like what he saw either, yet made a fateful decision when he told the scout, “Write him up. He’s raw, but he’s so big that anything can happen. I’ve seen crazier things happen.”
So McIntosh wrote up the Yankees’ very first report on Aaron James Judge. The scout doesn’t recall exactly what he said, but believes he stated a need for Judge to get stronger in college. Though McIntosh said Judge was fast for his size, he wasn’t impressed by his arm. “When he was pitching,” the scout said, “there was nothing coming out of there.”
So McIntosh’s ultimate role in the drafting of Judge (as the 32nd-overall pick in 2013) hardly compares to Dick Groch’s role in the drafting of Jeter (as the sixth-overall pick in 1992); Groch famously fell in love with the gangly Michigan high schooler and predicted he’d become a Hall of Famer. But still, if McIntosh didn’t “trick Kendall Carter into going to see Judge” (his words), and didn’t file that report, who knows what happens?
“Those were the first data points,” McIntosh said. “I just put him in the system in case something crazy happened. And then something crazy happened.”
Judge turned down the Oakland A’s, who had drafted him in the 31st round in 2010, and attended Fresno State, where he blossomed into a major Division I force. During Judge’s sophomore season, Fresno State coach Mike Batesole told McIntosh that he’d never had a player carry his team on his shoulders like the former Linden Lion did.
The stunned scout watched Judge hit a line drive up the middle that could’ve killed someone. “Oh my God,” McIntosh said to himself. “Where did that come from?” He would take a pro scouting job with the Angels before the Yankees drafted Judge in the first round.
“Even in the minor leagues you would hear that Judge was taking too many pitches, that he wasn’t being aggressive,” McIntosh recalled. “Everybody missed on him. But he just kept getting better and better. I saw it with Jeter and Mariano [in ’96] — not everybody can play under the lights of New York. But Aaron was born with a gift to be that calm. I’ve been in that clubhouse, and it’s magical. You want those pinstripes on you, and Aaron rose to the occasion.”
While Judge was busy matching Babe Ruth’s iconic 60-homer season Tuesday night, and attempting to match and pass Roger Maris’ iconic 61-homer season Wednesday night, his first Yankees scout was busy selling houses near his hometown of Minneapolis. The pandemic and the sport’s emphasis on analytics conspired to send him into a real estate job he loves.
Tim McIntosh still misses the game and the pinstripes. Meanwhile, he is very proud of Aaron Judge, and very glad he was dead wrong about him.