Even before he became a three-sport star in high school, Giancarlo Stanton grew up watching quite a few All-Star Games.
Few, though, stick out in his mind as much as when Mark McGwire smacked a record 13 home runs at Fenway Park during the Home Run Derby in 1999.
Stanton was only 9 years old then. But the power display caught his attention.
“That was a huge thing,’’ Stanton said Sunday. “Then [Josh] Hamilton goes and hits 28 [in 2008 at Yankees Stadium].’’
Stanton will get his chance to do more than just swing for the record books. Less than a week after an invitation to participate in the derby, Stanton earned his first All-Star Game berth Sunday and will be the Marlins’ lone representative when the National League and American League meet for the 83rd time in Kansas City, Mo., on July 10.
Stanton celebrated the news by doing what he does best. He crushed his 19th home run of the season Sunday, a 387-foot solo shot in the third inning off Joe Blanton. It was only his second opposite-field home run this season and just the eighth off his bat not to travel at least 400 feet.
Stanton, told two hours before Sunday’s game by Marlins personnel that he had received the All-Star bid, finally got recognized by the home crowd before the start of the fifth. He tipped his cap and then gushed afterward about what it meant to him.
“It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve done in my life to this point,’’ said Stanton, who at 22 is the second-youngest Marlin to make the All-Star team. Miguel Cabrera was 21 when he was selected in 2004.
“It’s something that I might even get emotional if I really think how far I’ve come in this game to be able to do what I’ve done,’’ he went onto say.
“Just sitting back and thinking about all the All-Star Games I watched, football, baseball, basketball, it just seems like one of those things that just seem so far out there and unrealistic to you until you’re sitting here now and it happens. I’m still humbled and baffled by it. I’m just soaking it in.’’
Since he was promoted from Double A Jacksonville on June 8, 2010, Stanton’s 75 home runs are the fifth-most in the majors.
According to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker, no player in baseball has displayed the power Stanton has throughout this season. Entering Sunday, only three players had hit more than one home run of over 450 feet this season: The Angels’ Mark Trumbo and the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista did it twice each. Stanton has done it four times. Two of those homers generated speeds off Stanton’s bat of over 120 mph — the two fastest homers in baseball this season.
In May, Stanton batted .343 with 12 home runs and 30 RBI, earning NL Player of the Month honors. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only other player since 1920 under the age of 23 who had that many home runs, RBI and a batting average that high in a calendar month was Joe DiMaggio.
When Stanton hit a 453-foot home run Saturday against Cole Hamels, Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said he glanced at Jim Thome, who has 609 career homers, in the visitors’ dugout.
“He was talking to [Roy] Halladay,’’ Guillen said. “I don’t know what they was saying, but you could see it was like, ‘Wow.’ ’’
Stanton is hitting .282, second-best among starters behind Omar Infante. His 50 RBI and 45 runs scored lead the team.
“It’s a great honor. This kid deserves that," Guillen said. "He worked hard for that. It’s going to be a great experience for him. He’s carried this ballclub almost all year long. He’s the soul of this ballclub and swings the bat well.’’
Teammates believe Stanton’s first trip to the Midsummer Classic will be just the first of many.
“I think he’s real capable of being an All-Star, not just the Home Run Derby, but to be an outfielder out there,’’ closer Heath Bell said. “... Maybe next year, people will start seeing who he really is and will start voting him in.’’
Pitcher Josh Johnson, who has been selected to the All-Star Game three times, said Stanton has grown as a hitter and will only get better with time.
“When he learns pitchers is when will he improve. All of it — on-base percentage, everything,’’ Johnson said.
Stanton confirmed last week he also will participate in the Home Run Derby on July 9.
“I’m sure everybody knows that there is nobody that has as much power as him,” pitcher Ricky Nolasco said. “... He’s going to open a lot of people’s eyes when he starts hitting some 500-foot shots. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
4:10 p.m., Miller Park.