Yankees’ Pat Roessler knows Juan Soto, Aaron Judge -- and more Yankee tradition than nearly anyone in uniform

TAMPA -- Back in January, Yankees manager Aaron Boone gathered his new coaching staff for a few days in Tampa for baseball talk and bonding. It was a new mix, as big personalities Carlos Mendoza and Sean Casey were gone, and a former big league manager, Brad Ausmus, was now bench coach.

Another member of the group carried a highly meaningful resume, if a lower-profile name. Pat Roessler, the 64-year-old assistant hitting coach, is perhaps the only man on earth to have already coached both Aaron Judge and Juan Soto.

And as director of player development for the Yankees from 2005-2014, he brings institutional knowledge of deep-seated organizational philosophies. Both of those qualities mark him as a major asset to the big league team.

Judge is the most successful Yankees prospect from Roessler’s time on the farm (new hitting coach James Rowson, a favorite of Judge’s, was minor league hitting coordinator during those years). He left the organization to join Kevin Long as the Mets’ assistant hitting coach from 2015-17, and replaced Long in the top job in 2018.

He then served as assistant hitting coach in Washington from 2020-2023, working with Soto until the Nationals traded him to San Diego in July, 2022.

“I haven't been around Judge recently,” says Roessler. “But Soto’s preparation is tremendous. He’s got a great routine. He has a very repeatable swing. He sees the ball better than 90 percent of the human race. He has great strike zone judgment, and he’s strong as hell. So he’s got a lot of good things working for him.”

May 26, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; San Diego Padres left fielder Juan Soto (22) follows through on a two run home run against the New York Yankees during the fifth inning at Yankee Stadium.

As Roessler sees it, once Soto gets into the batters’ box, he brings the aforementioned qualities to bear in intelligent, focused at-bats.

“He can implement a game plan. He gets in the box and knows what he wants to do. He knows where he’s looking for the ball and he knows what the [pitcher] does. It’s, ‘I’m looking for the ball here, and if he throws it there, I’ll be ready.’

Roessler illustrates that point with a remarkable anecdote. “He came back one time and he got rung up on a pitch and he says, ‘Six, [that is the nickname by which Roessler is known to everyone in baseball], a seam of that ball may have caught the inside corner.’ So I went back to look at it on the Trackman, and the ball was barely touching the corner.”

Roessler laughs, illustrating the by holding his thumb as forefinger so close together that they were nearly touching.

“I went, ‘Oh my God.’ It was unbelievable. And I don’t recall more than one or two at-bats in two and a half years that he threw away. He just doesn't waste at bats. It kind of reminds me of when Daniel Murphy was going good with the Mets. Great hitters, they just don’t give away 50 at-bats a year.”

Considering the elite sharpness of Judge’s eye, opposing starters will often throw far more pitches than they would like before getting through the top three in the Yankees’ batting order.

“Whoever is hitting fourth is gonna be hitting with [pitcher] in the stretch all the time,” Roessler says, laughing.

It is the Yankees’ good fortune that Roessler was available to return and work with both Soto and Judge. Washington remade its coaching staff after last season, and the Yankees were interviewing replacements for former assistant hitting coach Brad Wilkerson.

Jul 3, 2013; Charleston, SC, USA; New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, as part of the Charleston RiverDogs, speaks with Yankees Director of Player development Pat Roessler after leaving the game following the third inning of a rehab game against the Rome Braves at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has always loved Roessler for at least two reasons: Roessler’s garrulous, salt-of-the earth personality, and the depth of his experience with Yankee philosophies that stretch back four decades.

In the late 1980s, a group led by player development legends Bill Livesey and Mark Newman (and including a young Cashman) formed a study group that came up with the 500-odd page “Yankees System Development Manual,” a proprietary bible for how the team develops players.

While Roessler was not present for those storied brainstorming sessions, he was made to read and memorize the book when he arrived in the early 2000s. He was also responsible for updating it for emerging technologies -- from CD-Rom to flash drive, for example -- and adapting it to include the ideas of managers Joe Torre and Joe Girardi.

Boone, of course, did not come up as a minor league coach or manager; he was a broadcaster before taking his current job. As such, he will benefit from having a staff member who is so profoundly steeped in the organization’s DNA.

When Roessler became a free agent last winter, both Cashman and senior advisor Omar Minaya took note. Minaya was in the Mets’ front office when Roessler was on the staff, and admired how Roessler managed to hold on to his positive, player-first presence during the toxic days of manager Mickey Callaway.

Cashman and Minaya recommended Roessler to Boone, and Boone liked the idea of bringing him on.

“One of the thighs that I love about Six and wanted him for is that he’s a big culture guy, too,” Boone says. “Obviously. he’s one of the assistant hitting coaches here, and that’s his role, he’s also worn a lot of hats, and has a lot of experience. He carries a level of respect with the way he goes about things and how he deals with people.”