BATON ROUGE — A Baton Rouge native and former Catholic High baseball and basketball player will continue his baseball career with the winningest franchise in Major League Baseball — the New York Yankees.
Nicholas Judice was selected in the eighth round, 252nd overall, by the New York Yankees in the MLB Draft on July 10.
Judice pitched four years at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. In his senior season, the 6’8″ hurler had a 3.74 earned run average (ERA) in 53 innings with 66 strikeouts.
“I ended up having a gathering with family and friends,” Judice recalled of the day. “I was talking to my advisor pretty much all day, seeing what was going on. I was so nervous all day, basically in anticipation. I got the call at around four o’clock from my advisor. He told me the Yankees were going to pick me, and it was a big sigh of relief. I was super excited, and I celebrated it with my family. It was a great day for sure.”
Despite Judice labeling his family as more of a “basketball family,” he said he was introduced to baseball at a young age through t-ball in Baton Rouge.
At Catholic High, Judice played both baseball and basketball. He played first and third base and pitched in high school, although he admitted he didn’t pitch much because basketball season typically ran into baseball.
“I did both until my senior year in high school,” he said. “To play basketball in high school and then to get the chance to play at ULM for baseball, and I guess that’s where the love for the game kind of flourished. Just focusing on baseball and everything I got into it.”
At ULM, Judice said everyone preached academic work before baseball. He graduated from ULM in May with a degree in finance.
Because he didn’t pitch much in high school, Judice said everything clicked on the mound for him in his senior season in Monroe.
“Early on, we didn’t really focus too much on mechanics and all that,” he said. “It was mainly getting to know the college game and getting as many reps as possible because, as a freshman, you’re shaking in your boots out there. You don’t know what to expect.
“Freshman year got cut short because of COVID,” he continued. “It was kind of an odd transition going into sophomore year. I didn’t really pitch much sophomore year. I had a good junior year. I guess I just rode some momentum into my senior year. We hired a pitching coach in the fall before my senior year, and that’s when we really started working on mechanics, moving better athletically, and controlling all my long limbs.”
Three days after Judice was drafted, he was on the road to Tampa Bay to the Florida Complex League, the rookie-level circuit.
Judice said the players who were recently drafted are working out in preparation to gain some experience in Single-A or the complex league in September, near the end of the season.
While working out in Tampa, Judice said he met someone he didn’t expect to meet at the facility.
Someone tapped him on the shoulder, and when he turned around, it was reigning American League MVP and Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge, one of the few people in baseball who is at eye level with Judice. Judge was in Tampa rehabbing from a toe injury he suffered in June.
“I was not expecting him to walk into the weight room at that point,” Judice recalled. “It was a surreal moment. I watched him play a little bit after that. He’s a great guy.”
The former ULM pitcher had advice for younger players with their sights set on a baseball career.
“Coming out of high school, I would say go to the school that seems interested in you and puts your best interest forward,” he said. “Go where you’re going to get experience, and then just don’t stop working. It can be a grind in college, but just enjoy those relationships.”