Aaron Judge gifts Anthony Volpe a PS5 -- then smokes him in FIFA 23

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It's been a season of firsts for New York Yankees rookie shortstop Anthony Volpe.

He played in his first major league spring training. He made his first Opening Day lineup at 21 -- the youngest Yankee to start in an opener since Derek Jeter. He got his first MLB hits, a pair of singles in his second big league game.

Next up: Finally getting the best of Aaron Judge at FIFA 23.

A budding interest in soccer amplified after Volpe watched the World Cup which was played in November and December to avoid the summer temperatures in the host nation of Qatar. When his family took a trip to Italy to see relatives, Volpe was suddenly a bona fide fan of the beautiful game.

"Went to Italy over the offseason, to Florence -- hanging around with my cousins, all Napoli fans, and that combo with the past World Cup, it got me into soccer," Volpe told ESPN.

A natural next step for Volpe was picking up the massively popular video game FIFA 23. He started playing on his PlayStation 4 most nights during spring training, with one of his roommates, Mickey Gasper, becoming his main challenger.

What Volpe didn't know is that there were others in the clubhouse paying attention.

Judge, who has developed quite a reputation for his FIFA skills since he started playing regularly in 2021, overheard Volpe talking about his new habit. But Judge plays FIFA 23 on the next-gen console PS5, and with compatibility being an issue for cross-platform play, he decided to gift Volpe a brand-new console so they could face each other.

"It was my way of trying to connect with him and trying to know him as a person, particularly when it comes to the things that he enjoys off the field," Judge told ESPN. "And one thing that I picked up in spring training was hearing him talk about FIFA."

When the team arrived in Baltimore for the start of a seven-day, six-game road trip last week, the PS5 was waiting for Volpe at the ballpark. The shortstop had no words.

"It said a lot," Volpe said. "It's very welcoming. He is going out of his way to bring me in. It's very generous and kind. And to have something like that with a new teammate, it's special."

Some professional sports teams and leagues nowadays have real concerns with younger athletes spending too much time on their video game consoles. But for Judge, gaming is not only a welcome respite during the grind of a 162-game season, but a tool to gain an extra edge.

"It's funny, but playing online against guys who are really good, or playing late nights with teammates, it almost prepares me for stressful situations," Judge said. "Like, when you have to score a goal, and it's just you and the goalie, you gotta lock it in, and you have to use all your skills, but at the same time remain calm in a stressful situation. It's a way to relax and destress, but at the same time, helps you exercise your focus."

Judge honed his skills playing against former teammate Marwin González, whom he told ESPN "owned him" in their last couple of matches. Volpe, though, has a ways to go to say the same.

"Long story short, he beat me," Volpe said of their first matchup on Friday. "It was supposed to be best-out-of-three, but after he beat me the first two times, we played best-out-of-five, and he beat me 3-1. I thought my win was the start of something -- but he beat me the next game."

For his maiden voyage into PS5 play, Volpe picked one of the best clubs in the English Premier League, Manchester City. Given that it is generally the team that he chooses for himself, Judge had to opt for a few other EPL teams as his second choice -- but he still managed to easily beat Volpe.

"He was joking with me because, if you're good, you set (your own) lineups. But I'm bad!" Volpe said. "The best lineups are set as a default, so usually you just let it go. But if you think you're smarter than the computer ... and I am not, but I just like certain players. So, I set it before the first game, and Judgey ... was like 'oh' -- he thought I was probably better than I was.

"I was joking with Judgey, like, I've played with like three other people. I don't really know how good we are in the game. I'm only as good as they are!" Volpe said. "And Judgey is really good."

Volpe also explained that he was not used to the upgrades and next-gen features of the PS5.

"It's taking me a little time because the PS5 is different. I just got to get used to it," Volpe said, laughing. "Judgey was teasing me that I have all these excuses. But I was definitely saying that the angle was off ... the angle on the screen. The angles were off!"

For Volpe, all that really mattered was Judge choosing to spend one-on-one time with him.

"Stuff like that just shows how generous he is with everybody," Volpe said. "And how he approaches his leadership. I saw it in spring training in the clubhouse, but being on the team for the last week and a half, you see so many little examples. What is cool is that he's always that guy. That was such a kind and special gesture, but he is always that guy. He always has a few encouraging words for you. His leadership is constant."

So when is the next Volpe-Judge match?

"Whenever he tells me," Volpe said. "But I'll be practicing."