While growing up near Los Angeles, Giancarlo Stanton used to sit in the outfield bleachers at Dodger Stadium and watch Barry Bonds whenever the Giants were in town.
Unlike most other Dodgers fans, Stanton said he never booed Bonds.
But he distinctly remembers the lusty din from those who did.
“It’s one of those sounds you never forget, how loud those boos were,” Stanton said. “[Those are] memories I’ll never forget.”
Stanton had no way of knowing it at the time, but the polarizing player opposing fans loved to chastise would become his sixth, and latest, hitting coach with the Marlins.
“He’s definitely going to be great for me and the whole team, to pick his brain, learn from what he’s gone through,” Stanton said Saturday during FanFest at Marlins Park. “Everyone’s excited to have him here.”
If there’s one player on the Marlins who can relate to Bonds, it’s Stanton.
The Marlins’ all-time home run leader with 181 has a long way to go to catch Bonds, baseball’s all-time king with 762.
But in terms of pop, Stanton is the closest thing the Marlins have ever had to Bonds.
And those two sluggers will be working arm in arm to lift the Marlins out of their ever-deepening sinkhole of six consecutive losing seasons.
“What would you like me to do?” Bonds asked, somewhat rhetorically, to answer a question about how he intended to help Stanton.
By keeping the oft-injured Stanton on the field, perhaps?
“I’m not the trainer,” Bonds said. “That’s not my job description.”
Once again, Stanton enters spring training having missed the end of the previous season with an injury. The year before, it was his face — which had been carved up by a Mike Fiers fastball in Milwaukee — that everyone was talking about.
This time it’s his left hand, the one he broke in late June, that’s the focus.
When the injury occurred, the thought was that Stanton would be back in the lineup in four to six weeks.
As it turned out, those weeks turned into months and Stanton never played again in what was the first year of his 13-year, $325 million contract.
Stanton said Saturday there’s no reason for concern. The hand feels great.
“I started swinging in mid-December, gave it a long rest period, strengthening period, and I haven’t had a problem since,” he said. “It really just needed to sit and do nothing, heal inside. That was the best for it.”
Stanton’s goals are simple: remain healthy and play for a winner.
He’s known only losing since coming up to the Marlins as a rookie in 2010 (2009 was the team’s last winning season) and has likely lost track of the number of managers and hitting coaches he’s played for during his time in Miami.
The frustration shows in his comments.
“We’ve gone through every excuse in the book — young [team], new people, this and that,” Stanton said. “There’s no more time for that. We have our core. We have just about everyone of us here from last year, except the coaching staff. We’ve got to put it together.”
While the Marlins brought in yet another new coaching staff, with Don Mattingly becoming the latest new manager, and added left-hander Wei-Yin Chen to the starting rotation, they left the lineup untouched.
Stanton feels it’s one that Bonds can enhance, though it would certainly be easier if Bonds could put himself in it and perform the way he did for 22 seasons in the majors.
“It feels natural,” Bonds said about wearing a uniform for the first time in eight years. “It doesn’t feel any different. I just know that I can’t go out there and play anymore.”
But if Bonds can somehow transfer some of the wisdom that made him one of the greatest hitters of all-time, the Marlins will be better off.
“They are already talented,” Bonds said of the Marlins’ hitters.
“I don’t need to re-write the script on what they’re doing. We just need to nurture them in a way to bring out their own personal ability. It’s a puzzle that you have to put together. Giancarlo Stanton is going to have to play his part in that.”
Stanton said Bonds can best do that by helping them with “the approach side, the mental side.”
“That knowledge is very important to bring to a younger team,” Stanton said.