LOS ANGELES – Dodger Stadium was packed with baseball stars on the field, entertainers and movie stars in the seats, so naturally, the 92nd All-Star Game called for a Hollywood script, too.
So why not have a kid who grew up 30 minutes away from Los Angeles, hit a home run in nearly the same row in the left-field pavilion that he watched games with his father, 457 feet away from home plate, and win the All -Star Game MVP award Tuesday night in the American League’s 3-2 victory.
Giancarlo Stanton, welcome back to Los Angeles.
Stanton, the New York Yankees’ slugger, walked into the American League clubhouse after his press conference, and the moment his All-Star teammates saw him, started chanting, “MVP-MVP.”
He broke into a huge, expansive grin, and couldn’t stop smiling as he gave his All-Star jersey to the Hall of Fame.
“I can’t really explain how special this is,” Stanton said. “It’s hard to put into words that this is reality right now. It’s really cool.
“I mean, I’m soaking it all in.”
Stanton, a five-time All-Star, MVP winner, and two-time home run champion, was asked late in the evening just where this moment ranked among all of his illustrious accomplishments.
He thought for a moment, but sorry, he had no answer.
“I need it to sink in first to get there,” Stanton said, “but it’s right up there with anything personally. …I have some goals in terms of winning a championship, and going all the way, but personally for the road I’ve gone to get to, where I am now, this is very special.”
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Stanton, who left tickets for 50 family members and friends, started getting emotional talking about his days coming to about 15 games a year with his father, sitting in left field, and hoping the left fielder would toss baseballs his way. His heroes were Dodgers right fielder Raul Mondesi and his golden arm, Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza, starter Hideo Nomo.
“I always tried to make sure I saw (Mark) McGwire, (Sammy) Sosa, (Barry) Bonds, even for two at-bats. I’d just try to drive down here, get a ticket off the street, and come try to see what they can do in two at-bats.
“All of that wraps around in full circle when I’m out there.”
The sellout crowd of 52,518 were treated to Academy-award actor Denzel Washington paying tribute to Jackie Robinson, Dodgers All-Star Mookie Betts asking the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday” to Rachel Robinson, who turned 100 Tuesday, and future Dodgers Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw on the mound facing the game’s greatest player in two-way star Shohei Ohtani of the Angels.
The place was rocking when Betts drove in the game’s first run, and Paul Goldschmidt later homered in the first inning, giving the National League a 2-0 victory. It was the first time the NL had a multi-run lead since the 2012 All-Star Game, which was the last time they won the mid-summer classic.
Well, a funny thing happened the rest of the way.
The National League went seven innings without another hit, and while they helplessly flailed away the rest of the evening, they could only watch in envy when the AL put on a power display in the fourth inning.
It started when Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez led off with a line drive to center, and one out later, Stanton stepped to the plate. He had never gotten a hit in an All-Star Game, striking out four times. It looked like it was going to happen all over again when he swung and missed at a slider. He fouled off a fastball. Just like that, he was down 0-2 in the count to Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin.
Gonsolin came back with a splitter, and Stanton hit it to Pasadena, 457 feet away, leaving the crowd gasping for breath. The crowd was still buzzing when four pitches later, Minnesota center fielder Byron Buxton hit a homer that traveled 425 feet. It was only the seventh back-to-back homers in All-Star history.
“Man, that was pretty cool, and to see Giancarlo do that was pretty special,” Buxton said, “especially him being from here. He’s obviously a very talented player, but for him to have a moment like that here, it’s as good as it gets.
“He was telling us how he used to sit as a kid just a few rows from where he hit that home run. You couldn’t be any happier for him.”
This is a guy who was a superstar in Miami, signing a 13-year, $325 million with the Marlins, only for the Marlins to go belly-up. He was traded to the Yankees where he was immediately supposed to lead them to World Series titles, but they are still waiting for their first one since 2009, with Stanton often booed and blamed when they fall short.
This year, Stanton has stayed healthy, produced 24 homers and 61 RBI, and no one is complaining about him any longer with the Yankees sitting with the best record in baseball, 63-28.
“We’ve been watching him do this all season,” says Yankees All-Star closer Clay Holmes. “It’s no surprise to us. We know the power he has. I’ve seen quite a bit of it. Now, everyone here just saw it. He’s such a talented player, and so fun to watch.”
While everyone has gushed over Aaron Judge’s performance in the first half, with his major-league leading 33 homers and 70 RBI, Stanton is quietly having his greatest season as a Yankee.
“He’s been overshadowed, but you look up,” Holmes said, “and see the numbers he has put up. It’s impressive to see. That’s just him.”
Then again, when you’re a Yankee, Seattle first baseman Ty France said, how can anyone ever be overlooked?
“I tell you what, none of those Yankee boys are forgotten about,” France said. “What they’re doing, they’re the biggest team in baseball. He’s far from being forgotten about.
“What Giancarlo can do, and how far he can hit a baseball, my goodness.”
No wonder Judge told Stanton on their chartered flight traveling to LA that he would definitely hit a homer in the All-Star Game. Judge just didn’t mention he would become the MVP, too.
“When the lights are brightest,” Stanton said, “that’s what you want to do. That’s what the fans come to see. That’s what we work tireless hours for. It’s just cool to be able to put it together.”
For Stanton, being a Yankee has never felt so good.
“There are decisions you don’t second guess,” Stanton said. “There are decisions that you have to revamp and make adjustments. Just step up to the challenge. When things get tough, you’ve got two roads to go. You can go backwards and run away, or you stick through it.
“It’s just good to be in this situation now, bringing back childhood memories, and all of the dreams.”
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