Ozzie Guillen told reporters back in 2012 he was seriously worried Giancarlo Stanton might actually kill somebody on the field with one of the laser shots that come flying off his bat.
Marlins third-base coach Brett Butler said he constantly warns fans to stay alert when Stanton at-bats. He takes his own safety precautions, wearing a helmet and standing far up the left-field line or all the way back against the dugout — anything to try to stay out of harm’s way.
So what’s going to happen Monday night at Target Field in Minneapolis when manager Mike Redmond is serving up meatballs to the 6-6, 250-pound monster in the Home Run Derby and a collection of Little Leaguers are out there shagging balls?
“Hopefully they push everybody back to the warning track,” Marlins veteran outfielder Reed Johnson said. “It’s probably their best shot to stay alive.”
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Guillen, who is calling Monday night’s derby in Spanish for ESPN and who managed Stanton when he was selected to the All-Star team two years ago but couldn’t go to Kansas City for the game because he had knee surgery, maintains no hitter he has ever seen hits the ball harder than Stanton.
And the tape measure and radar gun back it up. Stanton is averaging an MLB-best 423.8 feet per home run this season and generating an average of 109.5 mph on each home run swing.
Of his National League-leading 21 homers, Stanton has hit five longer than 450 feet this season. The only other player with at least two homers longer than 450 feet is Atlanta’s Justin Upton.
“I don’t want to know how many Giancarlo is going to hit. I want to see how far he’s going to hit one,” Guillen said earlier this week.
“I saw him hit a ball in Cleveland when I was managing him and Asdrubal Cabrera was playing shortstop. He almost pulled [Cabrera] out into Lake Erie with how hard he hit it. [Cabrera] tried to catch it and he couldn’t even jump fast enough. The ball was hitting the wall before Cabrera landed on his feet.”
Of course, the goal in the derby isn’t to simply crush baseballs. It’s to put them over the fence.
Although Stanton said he would like to put on a show for the fans with an array of bombs, he said his strategy is “to relax” and “not tense up or try too hard.”
“There’s been times I’ve hit 15 or 20 [homers] in like 25 swings and wasn’t trying at all in batting practice,” Stanton said. “There’s times I’m like, all right let me let loose, and I [foul] three into the [batting cage]. You’ve just got to not try too much. You’re going to have the crowd and everything, just remember what got you there.”
Stanton, a 2-1 favorite to win the derby over defending champion Yoenis Cespedes, said his plan is to try to drive most of the pitches he sees to center field so he stays with his usual balanced approach at the plate. Stanton said he doesn’t want to rely simply on being a pull hitter.
“You would think it’s tougher, but it helps me stay back and have more solid contact,” Stanton said of the approach. “If it goes over the fence, it goes over the fence. Whether it’s 120 feet over the wall or one foot over it’s the same amount of points.”
Redmond, who has two sons ages 12 and 10, said he probably would allow his boys to shag balls when Stanton bats Monday in the derby. But that’s only because they’ve seen him hit before “and know how hard he hits the ball.”
Johnson and other Marlins teammates said they are seriously worried someone might get hurt Monday if Stanton sends a few line drives into the outfield with heavy top-spin.
“I would caution those kids that are out there that have never seen him hit,” Redmond said. “It could be scary. I hope it isn’t. I hope he hits them all in the seats.”