By Amy Tennery
NEW YORK (Reuters) -Slugger Aaron Judge was named MVP of MLB’s American League after producing a history making season with the New York Yankees while the St. Louis Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt came through a crowded field to take the National League award on Thursday.
There was little doubt Judge would collect the honor after vaulting himself into the pantheon of baseball greats when he broke Roger Maris’ American League single-season home run record, smashing 62 homers in the regular season.
“You dream about it as a kid, getting a chance to be in this moment and share this experience,” Judge, 30, told MLB Network while surrounded by his family.
“You never truly think it’s going to happen.”
Judge collected 28 of 30 first place votes to beat Los Angeles Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani and Houston Astros star Yordan Alvarez in voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Judge said he was “extremely nervous” prior to his teammate Giancarlo Stanton announcing the winner.
“You’re going up against Yordan Alvarez, one of the top premier hitters in this game, and Shohei Ohtani, who is by far one of the best players on this planet,” he said.
“I was trying to grind out the year all year. It was tough to really enjoy it because of the ups and downs and it wasn’t until really the past couple weeks where I was able to sit back and reflect on the year and see how good it was.”
His effort electrified fans and earned him a spot in Yankees lore, baseball historians drew comparisons between the charismatic All-Star and the most famous man ever to don the pinstripes, Babe Ruth.
He finished the regular season with an AL-best 131 RBIs and came up just short in the hunt for an elusive triple crown with a .311 batting average. He was also error-free on the defensive side.
The former Rookie of the Year finished second in voting for the AL MVP five years ago and is currently a free agent.
“He has been our MVP for quite some time now, and this honor couldn’t be more deserved,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said of Judge, who was drafted by the club in 2013.
Former Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Judge had put together one of the greatest seasons in the history of the sport.
“I’m grateful that I got to witness it first-hand and share in his magical year, especially given how much respect I have for him as a player and as a person,” Boone said.
“I hope he can reflect on his extraordinary individual accomplishments and the impact he had on his teammates every single day and use them as fuel for continued excellence in the years to come.”
While Judge was all but assured the AL MVP title, Goldschmidt won an NL race that had appeared wide open, beating teammate Nolan Arenado and San Diego Padres star Manny Machado for the honor.
The 35-year-old first baseman had finished in the top three of MVP voting on three prior occasions and gave credit to his teammates and coaches across his career.
“It’s a great honor, but it isn’t just me,” said Goldschmidt, who won 22 of the 30 first place votes.
“It’s about the teammates, coaches and guys I’ve played with in the past, and even guys I haven’t played with… I hope they know how much of an effect they had on my career.”
(Additional reporting by Rory Carroll in Los AngelesEditing by Shri Navaratnam and Grant McCool)