TAMPA — When Giancarlo Stanton walked into the clubhouse Friday morning, somewhat unexpectedly, the buzz was unmistakable, as even his fellow big-leaguers made a point of watching the new guy settle into his locker, surrounded by clubhouse attendants.
“He’s just one of those guys everybody is excited about seeing,” Dellin Betances said. “I mean, he’s the National League MVP and now he’s on our team. That’s pretty amazing.”
Much like Aaron Judge, his new slugging mate, if you will, Stanton’s size makes it impossible not to notice him. That and his reputation for hitting baseballs out of sight have always assured a certain sense of awe, going back to his early days in the minors.
As a minor-leaguer with the Yankees, in fact, Betances remembers going into Greensboro, N.C. in 2008, and being aware of the hype surrounding Stanton then as an 18-year old kid playing his first full season in the minors.
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“He was all the talk going into that series,” Betances recalled. “Then in his first at-bat, he’s facing a pitcher we had named Gabe Medina, and he hits a ball that had to go 500 feet. It was unbelievable how far it went.”
Betances paused, recalling the magnitude of the home run, and laughed.
“After that, he didn’t get pitched to the rest of the series,” he said. “I was just glad I wasn’t scheduled to pitch.”
Ten years later, Stanton is perhaps even more of an intimidating presence, after hitting 59 home runs for the Marlins last season. Especially in Yankee Stadium where, unlike his former home ballpark, what may feel like pop-ups to him are sure to wind up landing in the seats.
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As such, it’s rather dizzying to imagine the possibilities for Stanton in pinstripes, and the power displays that he and Judge will put on in the same lineup. Batting practice alone will be a spectacle, which is why the Yankees are expected to announce they’ll be opening the gates earlier than normal for home games this season so fans can watch the show.
Performing before huge crowds and passionate fans will be new to Stanton, to be sure, after playing in a place like Miami where apathy reigned.
But that’s not really why he made a point of showing up to camp here a couple of days early.
As he made clear at his press conference in December after the trade, he grew frustrated with the mediocrity that defined the Marlins during his eight seasons, partly due to financial limitations, and he’s thrilled all of that changes now.
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“It’s huge,” he said, when asked what it means to finally get a chance to play for a potential winner. “I’ve never been able to experience that at this level. It’s something I’ve worked my whole life to get to.”
Judge says Stanton said much the same thing to him when they talked at the BBWAA dinner in New York a few weeks ago.
“All he wants to do is win,” Judge said Friday.
Aaron Boone said he’s come away with much the same impression. “I know where he is mentally, as far as the excitement level,” Boone said. “There’s a hunger, there’s a desire to win. He’s at a point in his career when it’s about winning.
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“I think he’s welcoming the expectations and the largeness of what he’s walking into and he understands that when he first takes the field the attention is going to be huge, the scrutiny is going to be huge, and that’s something he’s prepared for as best he can.”
Ah, the New York factor. As much as Stanton says he welcomes the chance to win, it’s fair to ask if he’s ready for the glare of the media spotlight.
Even as a big star he went about his business in relative anonymity playing for the Marlins, yet people who covered him say he could be testy at times or didn’t always make himself available after games.
So we’ll see. On Friday Stanton said, “The market and all that isn’t what I’ve thought about. It’s more about getting used to a new place. That (stuff) comes with it: big expectations, a bigger market. Just being out of my comfort zone maybe…but not in a bad way.
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“This is all new to me and it’s going to be a fun ride.”
If he hits home runs as he did last year, Stanton will be nothing less than the toast of the town, much like Judge in 2017. The only question for Boone is where he’ll bat his two bombers.
On Friday, the manager said it’s tempting to make sure they both hit in the first inning, in the No. 2 and 3 spots, but he indicated it’s more likely he would hit lefty Greg Bird between them to make it tougher on opposing managers to match up with relievers in the late innings.
“I envision one of them hitting in the 2-hole,” Boone said. “That’s one thing that’s kind of a starting point for me. Whether it’s G or Aaron, we’ll see how that shakes out.”
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There is plenty of time for that, yet Stanton’s arrival here Friday was a reminder that the anticipation for what he’ll do in the Bronx is practically palpable already.
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- new york yankees
- spring training
- giancarlo stanton
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