LINDEN – Wherever this baseball journey takes Aaron Judge, you get the feeling he’ll always come home.

And what a journey it already has been.

From the Mother Lode League to the American League.

From cherry and walnut orchards to the Big Apple.

From Linden to Gotham.

But it was all about “home” on Saturday night for the New York Yankees superstar, whose meteoric rise – make that "All Rise!" – has captured the imagination of America’s national pastime while the folks of this close-knit community can say “we knew him when.”

Judge was the sole inductee into the Linden Athletic Hall of Fame during a packed-house dinner and ceremony at Linden High School. His humility and respect – more a part of the Aaron Judge persona than Ruthian home runs – was in full display.

“It is an honor and a privilege for me to be in this fraternity with so many great Linden athletes and teams,” Judge said. “There are undefeated baseball and softball teams, state champion volleyball teams and great athletes in the hall. It’s a privilege to join them.

“And it’s always a breath of fresh air to be home. You hit Copperopolis Road and you know you’re home. The people of Linden mean so much to me.”

And vice versa.

Judge has accomplished so much in professional baseball – the 440-foot home run on his first major league at bat, the 2017 American League Rookie of the Year award (52 home runs, 114 runs batted in and a .284 batting average), the All-Star Home Run Derby championship and 90 homers – 83 in the regular season, 7 in the playoffs.

And that’s all before his 27th birthday.

The seeds to this success were planted in Linden, where he won eight varsity letters. In his senior year (2009-10), Judge caught 54 passes for 960 yards and 17 touchdowns in football, averaged 18 points per game in basketball and hit .500 in baseball.

“Here we are in the Mother Lode League and there’s a 6-foot-7 tight end matched up against a 5-foot-nothing defense back,” long-time Linden High coaching legend Mark Miller said with a laugh. “It probably should have been illegal. But you never saw Aaron get boastful despite the difference in talent. He was respectful of teammates and opponents.”

Much of that approach comes from his upbringing. Judge’s parents, Patty and Wayne Judge, are long-time Stockton-area educators.

“Aaron is physically strong, mentally strong and morally straight,” said Bob Amerman, who coached baseball for 46 years at Linden High School. “He’s a Number 1 in all respects. His family has a lot to do with that.”

“It really helped to raise our family in Linden, which has been the right community for us,” Patty Judge said. “It means so much to celebrate tonight with such close family and friends.”

Added Wayne Judge: “This was an unbelievable night that means so much to us. And I know it means a lot to Aaron. He always likes to come home, but this honor is even more special.”

Aaron Judge was touched by how many of his high school teammates – and he had a lot of them while playing three sports – turned out for his induction into the hall.

“I saw people tonight who totally surprised me,” he said. “People came from out of the area, and even out of state, to be here. It means so much.”

One of those ex-teammates was Ryan Derksen, a baseball outfielder who was a neighbor of the Judges.

“We used to lift weights and train together. And he always was just one of the guys,” Derksen said. “I went down to Fresno State to see him play a couple of times in college. He was great at that level.

“But who really knew what he could become in the Major Leagues? It was very exciting for all of us in town when he got the call up to the Yankees and started having success. Despite that, he stays in touch and always has time for his friends.”

Judge’s induction speech said a lot about his demeanor. He thanked – by name – teachers, counselors, administrators, custodians, bus drivers and many others who were involved in his Linden Unified educational experience. And it wasn’t just a recitation of names – Judge added anecdotes about what these people meant to his life.

Joe Fonzi, a 40-year veteran broadcaster in the Bay Area, served as master of ceremonies. Fonzi, a Linden native who also played baseball for Amerman, has covered the likes of Joe Montana, Steve Young and Steph Curry, but sees Judge as “unique.”

“He’s not only a special person, but he has a special story,” said Fonzi, who also is in the Linden Athletic Hall of Fame. “And despite all of his immediate success, he still exhibits the traits of people in his hometown.”

Several times during the evening, speakers mentioned that Judge had “put Linden on the map.” While appreciative, he counters that the city always has been and always will be more than one person.

“I know Linden is on the map,” he said with a smile. “I can call that map up in my car when I come home.”