The rest of the country found out what the Marlins have known for years now — watching Giancarlo Stanton take batting practice can be breathtaking.
On the eve of the 85th All-Star Game, the Marlins' 6-6, 250-pound muscle-bound right fielder put on an epic display of power at the Home Run Derby — the kind few rarely see because of his team's relative obscurity.
He hit a line drive shot off the batter's eye in center field an estimated 430 feet, bashed two bombs into the third deck including one that traveled 510 feet and nearly flew out of the park at Target Field.
The only thing Stanton didn't do? Win.
After smacking six homers in the first round to earn a bye into the semifinals, Stanton's power ran dry. Really, he got cold.
Stanton didn’t swing for more than an hour as the rest of the field fought to stay in contention, and he eventually lost to the Reds' Todd Frazier 1-0 in stunning fashion in the National League final. Frazier went on to lose to defending champion Yoenis Cespedes of Oakland 9-1 in the final.
“It made a bigger difference than I thought it would,” Stanton said of the layoff. “I kind of have to find something to do in that time, stay warm. It's definitely a speed bump I couldn't get over in this one. But it was still fun.”
The Cuban-born Cespedes stayed warm throughout. He had to win a swing-off with A’s teammate Josh Donaldson to advance past the first round and slugged 30 homers total on the night en route to capturing back-to-back home run derby crowns. He and Ken Griffey Jr. are only the derby champion to win in consecutive years.
Afterward, Cespedes said the new derby format definitely affected Stanton and Toronto’s Jose Bautista, who earned the American League’s bye with 10 homers in the first round. Bautista waited an hour and 55 minutes before he batted in the competition again. He only hit four homers in his semifinal loss to Cespedes.
“The change in the format, like I said before, definitely affected some players,” Cespedes said. “And I think it was difficult for people like Bautista and Stanton because they did have to wait so long between. And it’s not so much that they were affected on the field, but they also had to wait and they didn’t have the cage as much.”
Said Stanton: “You usually don't do that for anything [during the regular season]. I can't believe I goose-egged the second round.”
For Stanton, 24, it was a disappointing end to what started out as his big show.
His mammoth blasts drew the biggest reactions from the crowd of 40,558 in attendance. All-Stars on both sides were in disbelief when Stanton’s third-deck shot nearly left the park.
“That was the gold ball, the charity ball too,” Stanton said. “So you don't know how they're going to fly. It's tough to pick them up.”
Former National League MVP Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates came out to hug Stanton after his longest shot of the night. Stanton played up to the crowd, too, waving his arms up and down to try and get them louder. “It was cool,” Stanton said of his moment. “It's what they're here for. It's what it's about.”
Stanton, 24, became the fifth Marlins player to compete in the derby.
Hanley Ramirez finished as the runner-up in 2010 and hit a total of 26 home runs. Miguel Cabrera finished in third place in 2006 with 15 homers total. Dan Uggla didn't get past the first round in 2008 and finished with six long balls. Gary Sheffield didn't hit any home runs when he represented the Marlins in 1996.
The start of the derby was delayed nearly an hour by rain in the area. Stanton was the fourth National League hitter to bat.
Marlins manager Mike Redmond served up the meatballs to Stanton. The two embraced on the field shortly after Stanton's stellar first round.
Despite the disappointing loss, Stanton said he isn’t ruling out a return to the derby next year.
“For sure,” Stanton said when asked if he would want to come back. “I’ve got to bring it back to the NL.”
Hitting at Target Field wasn't an entirely new experience for Stanton. Last year, the Marlins played a double-header here against the Twins in frigid April temperatures after the first game of their two-game set had been snowed out.
Still, Stanton said he didn't exactly feel like he got to know the park.
"We were making snow angels last year," Stanton said before the derby. "It wasn't above 25 degrees the last time I was here. We didn't even get to hit batting practice out here."
Dodgers slugger Yasiel Puig, who earned more fan votes than Stanton to earn one of the three starting spots in the outfield in Tuesday's game, was the only contestant to put up a doughnut in the opening round.
Puig became the first participant since Robinson Cano in 2012 to fail to hit a home run. Cano's father pitched to Puig too on Monday.