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Aaron Judge

He was a 6-7, 220-pound wide receiver who set school records at Linden High in California with 969 receiving yards and 17 touchdown receptions in his senior year. Division I football programs wanted him to play tight end. Then he averaged 18.2 points and 12.8 rebounds in basketball.

But Aaron Judge ended up playing baseball.

He turned down full scholarships on the gridiron to take a partial baseball scholarship at Fresno State. He went to the Bulldogs as a pitcher and first baseman, but gained weight and played the outfield (he's now listed at 282). Judge chose the sport with the brightest future and a couple hundred games into his Yankees' career, that seems like the right call.

"I enjoyed football," Judge says. "I loved it. I still miss playing it. I miss playing basketball. Whenever I get a chance, I go shoot around. It's just a different mindset. The mindset you have when you go out on the football field is, 'I'm going to tackle somebody.' You can't really have that aggressive mindset in baseball, because you'll play out of control. But looking back on it, I fell in love with baseball at a young age, so I felt like my heart was always pulling me towards baseball. Whenever I was talking to different schools, getting letters and stuff like that, I thought it may be cool to be a two-sport athlete in college, but my heart was always on baseball."

Jim Harbaugh

Stanford, Notre Dame and UCLA were all among the major programs who made a push at Judge. But Judge, who graduated high school in 2010, remembers one coach -- the head coach at Stanford -- going the extra mile.

"[Jim] Harbaugh was the only one," Judge remembers. "But like I said, looking back on that whole process, it was cool, but in the back of my mind, I knew that I wanted to play baseball. That was my dream, and that's what I wanted to do. At the time, it was cool hearing from all of these big-time schools and big-time coaches, but I still had that love for baseball."

He adds that Harbaugh, who left Stanford for the 49ers after the 2010 season, didn't try to stop Judge from pursuing baseball, but, "it was more behind-the-scenes. I spoke with him a little bit."

Via text message, Harbaugh tells ThePostGame he is "flattered" to hear he recruited Judge harder than any other coach, but that doesn't heal the wound of not signing the high school phenom. 

"I loved Aaron as a tight end," Harbaugh writes. "It left a deep bruise at the time when he selected baseball over football, but obviously life has worked out for him, as he is one of the premier baseball players and athletes in the world."

Judge was on the sidelines this past fall for the Michigan-Ohio State game in Ann Arbor. It should be noted girlfriend Jen Flaum, who was with him on the field, is a Michigan alum.

When Judge got to Fresno State in fall 2010, he briefly flirted with the idea of playing Division I football too, but nothing got off the ground.

"I talked to a couple of coaches there," he recalls. "But the funny thing was, my baseball coach was like, 'We gave you the scholarship first,' and you couldn’t really argue with that."

Judge -- picked in the 31st round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Athletics, but went to Fresno State instead -- was ultimately drafted by the Yankees at No. 32 overall in 2013. Judge made his MLB debut in August 2016 and hit a home run in his first at-bat. In 2017, he set an MLB rookie record with 52 home runs, won the Home Run Derby and was awarded the AL Rookie of the Year.

This year, he has a new home-run-bashing teammate, Giancarlo Stanton. Last year's NL MVP is struggling early with a league-leading 20 strikeouts through April 9. Judge let the AL in that category last year, setting a Yankees franchise record at 208.

"It's early in the season," Judge says. "It's tough for everybody. You can look around the whole league and there are guys who aren't hitting the way they want to be hitting. But the great thing about Stanton that I've really enjoyed watching, even in Spring Training, is how hard he works. He had a game in Spring Training where he had his first three-strikeout game, and it was a night game. I think it was over pretty late, probably like 10 or 10:30, and he was still at the field after the game, hitting off of a pitching machine. He had a coach standing there and he was just working on stuff, constantly working, trying to improve his game. A lot of guys, if they struck out three times in a game, they'd say, 'That's it for me. I'm going to head home and try to forget about this games.' But just how hard he works, every day has been so fun to be around and so fun to watch."

Judge says he and Stanton haven't talked much about hitting with each other, but he says as the season progresses and they get their timing right, they will share info more in-depth scouting reports on opposing pitchers. The Yankees face the NL East this season, Stanton's former division.

Judge spoke to the Yankees on behalf of Adidas, which announced a multiyear partnership starting this season. Of course, the three stripes are tapped into all three of Judge's main sports, including the two he left behind in high school.

"It's a great company, it's just amazing the reach the type of reach they have in all types of sports," Judge says when asked about joining Adidas. "Getting the chance to meet some other athletes -- a guy like James Harden is sponsored by Adidas. I love watching him play. I'm a big basketball fan. Meeting him is something I’m looking forward to."

Judge joins an Adidas roster that also features young stars Kris Bryant and Carlos Correa.

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