Stanton returns home an All-Star, wins MVP

Yankees star grew up attending games at Dodger Stadium: 'I can't explain how special this is'

July 20th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- There was no more fitting place for Giancarlo Stanton’s first All-Star home run to land than the left-center-field seats at Dodger Stadium.

After all, that’s where his love of baseball developed into a lifelong passion, one that helped him earn the Ted Williams Award as the Chevrolet All-Star Game Most Valuable Player on Tuesday night.

“I can't really explain how special this is,” said Stanton, who grew up 30 minutes from Dodger Stadium and attended Notre Dame High School in nearby Sherman Oaks. “It's hard to put into words that this is reality right now. It's really cool. I'm soaking it all in.”

Stanton’s titanic fourth-inning blast erased the National League’s two-run lead, then Byron Buxton followed with a solo shot, the two homers leading the American League to a 3-2 win and a ninth consecutive victory in the Midsummer Classic.

Stanton and Buxton became the first players to go back-to-back in an All-Star Game since Alex Bregman and George Springer in 2018.

“He's been a great player for a long time,” AL manager Dusty Baker said of Stanton. “The way he's looking, the way he's built, he should be around for an awful long time. I just regret that we [the Astros] have to play him in a doubleheader on Thursday, but for today, we're on the same side.”

Stanton's projected 457-foot blast clocked in at 111.7 mph off the bat, the hardest-hit base hit in an All-Star Game since Statcast began tracking in 2015. It also marked the second-longest homer in an All-Star Game during that stretch, trailing only Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s 468-foot shot last year in Colorado.

“When the lights are brightest, that's what you want to do,” Stanton said. “That's what the fans come to see. That's what we work tireless hours for.”

When he first learned that the All-Star Game would be held in Los Angeles, Stanton knew he had to do everything he could to be a part of it.

“I thought, ‘I really want to be here,’ but you’re not just given this opportunity,” Stanton said. “You put that challenge to yourself.”

With 24 home runs and an .835 OPS in 76 games this season, Stanton was elected by the fans as the AL’s starting left fielder, fulfilling that goal to play in Dodger Stadium’s first All-Star Game since 1980.

On their flight to L.A., Stanton joked with fellow Yankees All-Star Aaron Judge that he was going to hit at least one home run in front of his hometown crowd. Stanton struck out looking against the Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara in the second inning, but he made the most of his next at-bat.

“I have seen that all year; that’s nothing new,” Judge said. “He told me he was going to get one here; he didn’t get it in his first at-bat, so he made up for it in the second one, that’s for sure.”

During Tuesday’s batting practice, Judge had a sense that Stanton was locked in as the two squared off in an unofficial Home Run Derby. According to Judge, Stanton was a runaway winner.

“It was pretty funny,” Judge said. “That’s why he pointed into the dugout and was laughing a little bit when he was going to first.”

This year marked Stanton’s fifth career Midsummer Classic, and after his second-inning strikeout, he was hitless in seven career All-Star at-bats.

Dodgers right-hander Tony Gonsolin, who is 11-0 with a 2.02 ERA this season, got ahead of Stanton with two quick strikes, but he left an 83.4 mph splitter up in the zone and Stanton pounced on it, sending it into the seats he used to sit in as a kid, trying to get whoever was playing left field that day to throw him a ball.

“All full circle,” said Stanton, whose jersey from Tuesday’s game is headed to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

“It's very special to me, so I think 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.”