MIAMI (AP) — Giancarlo Stanton sat in the back row during a news conference for All-Star Home Run Derby contestants, and when introduced he raised his hand to ensure everyone knew who he was.
The gracious gesture was unnecessary, given the growth of the Stanton brand leading up to Tuesday night’s All-Star Game.
The Miami Marlins slugger is in the starting lineup as the National League’s designated hitter. He went down swinging as the hometown favorite and defending champion in the Home Run Derby. And away from the ballpark, his profile is rising – literally.
Stanton towers over downtown, his mighty swing in silhouette on the side of a bayside skyscraper. He appears in a cellphone advertisement on the side of another downtown building, and on a wall mural in a nearby arts district.
Looking good, Giancarlo.
“A perfect-body type guy,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.
Stanton also appears in ads pushing baseball, video games and cellphones, and he’s the headliner at several All-Star festivities.
He briefly showed impatience with the heavy promotional schedule Monday and grumbled before the derby about being tired. He got only 2½ hours sleep while returning with his team from a weekend series in San Francisco, which may be why he was upset by the Yankees’ Gary Sanchez in the first round of the derby Monday night.
But Stanton perked up discussing the attention he’s receiving with the national spotlight on his home ballpark.
“You’ve got to embrace it, because there are so many people that would love to have that,” Stanton said. “If you’re avoiding it when you have an opportunity, or thinking it shouldn’t be you or whatever, then what do you work for? What do you play hard for? What do you perform for?
“These are things that come with that. If you don’t want it, don’t be a good player, you know? If you don’t want the spotlight, don’t play as hard.”
Stanton has the sport’s biggest contract, a $325 million, 13-year deal he signed in 2014. He’s a four-time All-Star whose reputation for tape-measure blows was unrivaled until Yankees rookie Aaron Judge this year began hitting homers considered, well, Stantonesque.
Stanton lived up to his billing in the Home Run Derby, despite the early elimination. He cleared the home run sculpture at Marlins Park, reached the upper deck in center field and knocked two balls off the windows behind the beer garden in left field. Eight of his 16 homers had an estimated distance of at least 480 feet, and the crowd groaned when he finished one homer behind Sanchez.
Judge won the title but was impressed by Stanton.
“He was crushing them out of there,” Judge said. “He was fun to watch. The way he was getting the fans going, they were loving it. That was a pretty cool experience.”
Stanton’s prodigious power is seldom on display on such a big stage. He has never been on a winning team, and as a Marlin, has possibly played before more empty seats than any other major leaguer since his debut in 2010.
He believes he would be a bigger deal if he was hitting homers for the Dodgers or Yankees.
“That’s definitely true,” he said. “But what am I supposed to do about that?”
It seems Stanton has a plan. He took part in Home Run Derby promotional campaign that started June 25. He’s the cover athlete for a derby mobile video game and the featured athlete for the derby All-Star virtual reality video game. His star appears on the downtown Miami Walk of Fame with other All-Stars and celebrities.
On Tuesday, he’ll attend a community event with baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and former slugger Alex Rodriguez at a boys and girls club, and he’ll ride through the streets of downtown as part of the All-Star red carpet show.
The face of the All-Star Game? Mattingly said his slugger is worthy of the role.
“Why not? He doesn’t mind the attention,” Mattingly said with a smile. “In baseball circles, we knew about Giancarlo before he even got to the big leagues, and it didn’t take long for him to jump to being recognized as one of the best players.”
Perhaps the face of the All-Star Game will turn out to be Judge, who is rocketing to stardom. But when Stanton arrived home from San Francisco at 5:30 a.m. Monday and looked out the window of his high-rise condo, it was his own silhouette he saw on an adjacent skyscraper.
The image of him taking swings has temporarily replaced the female dancer who normally occupies the side of the building.
“I always see the girl shaking her booty out there when I hang out on the balcony, so it’s pretty cool,” he said. “I’m a little less entertaining, but I think I’m allowed to steal the spotlight a little bit.”