Gerrit Cole is probably the best pitcher in baseball and Aaron Judge the best hitter. But like the rest of us, they both marvel at two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani, who’s likely a top-five hitter and a top-five pitcher. But though Cole and Judge were both great two-way players in high school, only one of them even wonders if he could have tried to do both at the major league level.
“I wish I was a kid coming up. What an inspiration that is for people that strive to do that,” said Cole, an Ohtani admirer from the beginning. “By the end of high school I was throwing 100 mph. I loved hitting. I loved playing the field. But it was, you’re never going to do that anymore. You throw too hard. … Ohtani is inspiring people to now say, hey, this is possible in the major leagues.”
Cole seemed to have a touch of regret that the bat was taken out of his hands until he was a Pirate, when he was a decent hitter (for a pitcher) with three homers and a .174 average. Could he have been a two-way player?
“I like to think I would be Ohtani,” Cole said, laughing (he was kidding).
Then I asked him to be serious.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I stopped working on hitting after high school. I’m confident in my abilities. I’m not going to make any outlandish remarks. I don’t think I would have made the big leagues as a hitter.”
A majority of scouts actually first projected Judge to be a pitcher since he’s 6-foot-7 and threw in the mid 90s. But he said he tried to do both in college, and if he kept trying, “I think I’d end up right where I am now — just hitting.”
Want to catch a game? The Yankees schedule with links to buy tickets can be found here.
Judge always saw hitting as his ticket to the bigs.
“It kind of pissed me off coming out of high school. Really a lot of teams liked me more as a pitcher than a hitter. I kind of took offense to that,” Judge said. “I said I’m not going to pitch in the big leagues. I’d rather hit home runs than give up home runs. I don’t think my arm would have lasted. These guys throw 200 innings in a year. That’s a gift right there.”
Since there was a Judge versus Ohtani theme this week, I asked Judge how he’d rank arguably the game’s three best players, including also Mike Trout.
“I’ve got Trout and Ohtani above me. Ohtani is doing both pitching and hitting, and Mike Trout wins an MVP every other year. I’ve got some work to do.”