Judge rules Yankees business after record-breaking season

NEW YORK, March 28 (Reuters) - The New York Yankees hope to harness Aaron Judge's cult of celebrity to their advantage as the new season kicks off on Thursday following a record-breaking performance last year from the American League MVP.

Judge smashed his 62nd home run in October, vaulting himself into the pantheon of Yankees greats as he broke Roger Maris' American League single-season record that had remained untouched since 1961.

While the 27-times World Series champions are already among the most reliably popular franchises in MLB, ticket sales skyrocketed even further as fans clamored to be a part of his run for the history books.

The Yankees became the top-selling team on the ticket sales platform StubHub between Aug. 1 and Oct. 4, beating the second most popular team - the St. Louis Cardinals - by a whopping 20%, with per-game sales more than 300% higher than the league average.

"Really what the Yankees have been able to do is capitalize from all the merchandizing across concession stands, marketing elements, sponsorship," StubHub spokesman Adam Budelli told Reuters.

"Even though they are the New York Yankees, still it certainly helps when you have such an exciting season with a home run chase going on, you know, full sellout there down the stretch and then heading into the off season - it certainly will help their business."

The team is one of only two in the American League to crack the list of the top ten most in-demand franchises on the ticket-selling platform heading into the 2023 season, the other being the Boston Red Sox.

The 6-foot-7-inch Adonis of New York sent cheers of celebration ricocheting through the Bronx in December when he agreed to wear the pinstripes again, signing a nine-year deal and ending weeks of excruciating speculation over his future.

Judge told reporters during the pre-season that he is less concerned with living up to the hype of his magical 2022 than with incremental improvement.

"Just trying to get one percent better every single day. Try to find a couple things throughout the season that I wanted to improve on," Judge told the YES network.

"You've just got to hone in on that, don't really look at the big picture. Just try to find two or three things you can kind of improve on and go to work."

The Yankees kick off their season at home against the San Francisco Giants on Thursday.

Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York

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