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Aaron Judge could be next face of baseball, commish says

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred says New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge is the kind of player "who can become the face of the game."

Speaking to the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday, Manfred called Judge "absolutely phenomenal."

"I mean, there is no other word to describe it," Manfred said. "He is a tremendous talent on the field and really appealing off the field."

The Yankees rookie, who leads the majors with 30 home runs, won the Home Run Derby on Monday night. He is also in the top three in batting average (.329) and RBIs (66) in the American League, helping New York position itself for playoff contention at the All-Star break.

Judge, larger than life at 6-foot-7, was celebrated by MLB with a Judge-Con promotion Monday in which the sport enlisted actors and comics to dress as judges and make appearances throughout New York City.

David Matranga of PSI Sports Management, which represents Judge, says the 25-year-old has kept his mind on pitchers, not corporate pitches.

"We've had quite a few offers from various markets and brands. It just keeps coming every day," Matranga said. "He's got a lot of people pulling at him, but right now Aaron just wants to keep his focus on the Yankees."

Manfred discussed a number of other issues Tuesday, including the record pace for home runs and strikeouts throughout the majors.

Manfred said there is a "dramatically increased tolerance for strikeouts by offensive players" and added that there's "much, much more emphasis on the home run as the principal offensive tool in the game."

MLB proposed several initiatives last offseason, including a 20-second pitch clock, limits on mound visits by catchers and raising the bottom of the strike zone. The only change was to allow intentional walks to be signaled without throwing pitches.

Manfred also addressed the proposed rule changes Tuesday, saying he is "certainly open to the idea that we should take a more aggressive posture."

MLB has the right to unilaterally impose for 2018 the proposals made last offseason that were not accepted. Union head Tony Clark says "our guys are engaged in the dialogue."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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