Giancarlo Stanton was struggling to just to make contact on a baseball consistently in games earlier this season.
On Monday night, Stanton looked superhuman as he constantly sent balls flying high and far into the Petco Park bleachers at a record pace.
Stanton crushed the better part of the 61 home runs he hit overall to win his first-ever All-Star Home Run Derby and become the first Marlins player to win it.
“For being on the West Coast and taking the flight out here just for this, I figured it would have been a waste if I didn’t bring this bad boy home,” said Stanton referring to the event’s championship trophy.
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Stanton’s final tally was the highest in the 31-year history of the event and broke the previous record for a single-event of 41 set by Bobby Abreu in 2005.
By the end of the first round, Stanton was eliminating former Derby champions like Robinson Cano and making others like David Ortiz bow in reverence.
Stanton’s put up an array of ridiculous statistics during the performance:
▪ His longest home run was 497 feet, and he reached that distance twice.
▪ He hit five of his home runs 490 feet or more.
▪ His home runs averaged 447 feet.
▪ He hit the eight longest home runs of the contest and 20 of the 21 longest.
▪ His total of 61 represented 30 percent of the 203 home runs hit overall in the event.
Teammate Christian Yelich tweeted: “In all fairness to everybody else they aren’t losing to a mortal man.”
Stanton’s 24 home runs in the opening round far surpassed Cano’s seven and set a record for the most hit in a single round.
His 17 in the second round was enough to edge Mark Trumbo, who leads the majors with 28 home runs this season. Trumbo, who hit second in the matchup, made it close, but only hit 14.
Stanton’s 20 home runs in the final round of the eight-player, single-elimination contest was enough to dethrone defending champion Todd Frazier of the White Sox, who won it last year as a member of the Reds.
“[Stanton] was hitting the moonshots,” Frazier said. “I felt like I was a high school hitter compared to him the way he was hitting them that far.”
Frazier hit 42 home runs overall, which was three more than his victorious total from a year ago in Cincinnati.
It wasn’t nearly enough to top Stanton as his 13 in the final round fell well short.
“With Frazier I had to wait until the final buzzer because he knows the format better than any of us do winning it last year,” Stanton said. “I was just waiting for it to wind down.”
Stanton said the timed format of four minutes per round with unlimited swings allowed definitely helped. Stanton, who competed in his second career Derby only hit six home runs in 2014 during his first appearance. His 67 in only two Derbies put him in seventh-place all-time and even surpassed his hitting coach Barry Bonds’ total of 47.
“I’m more rapid fire in my work and regular batting practice so I like this format,” Stanton said. “I don’t think I’ve ever hit any longer than I did tonight. I’ll definitely take this back and chirp a little bit at Barry. We’ll see.”
Stanton credited Marlins assistant coach Pat Shine, who threw to Stanton as he does regularly in batting practice, as a major factor in his victory.
“No-brainer [picking Shine to throw],” Stanton said. “He was grooving them out there. I don’t think I took more than five balls. He was just as important to this as I was.”
Shine added: “I’ve been around [Stanton] for a couple of years now and watched him hit a lot of home runs. I’m just really happy for him. He’s one of the most intense competitors I’ve ever been around and I knew he really wanted to win this.”
Marlins’ All-Stars, Jose Fernandez, Marcell Ozuna, A.J. Ramos and Fernando Rodney joined Stanton in celebration after he hit took his final swing of the competition.
Stanton briefly raised his bat to acknowledge the crowd that gave him a loud ovation just before he finished.
Stanton, who was named the National League’s Player of the Week before the Derby began Monday, has hit 20 home runs and totaled 50 RBI this season despite early season struggles that have led to his subpar .233 average.
Stanton hit five home runs last week including four in four consecutive at-bats to surpass 200 for his career.
“I feel so excited for him and I’m proud of him because he was struggling [earlier this year] and for him to win it is beautiful,” Marcell Ozuna said. “He’s one of the best home run hitters in the big leagues.”
Stanton, one of five Marlins to compete in the Derby, said he had great childhood memories of watching others compete.
“I grew up watching it and now, I’ll have kids saying the same thing that they watched me do this so I’d like to return the favor,” Stanton said.
The victory set Stanton up for a potential title defense in his home ballpark next season as the 2017 All-Star Game will be played at Marlins Park.
“It just depends how the year is going by then,” Stanton said. “Next year it’s at home so pretty good chance I’ll do it.”