Giancarlo Stanton is happy to help host Miami's inaugural All-Star party. The 27-year-old slugger is as much the face of the franchise as anyone -- especially since he signed a 13-year contract extension in November 2014, which will keep him in Miami for the long haul so he can keep thrilling the Marlins faithful with his feats.
Stanton, one of the most prodigious power hitters in recent memory, is also one of the darlings of a new age of Major League mashing in which Statcast™ can accurately measure his might. Thanks to his vicious and dangerous swings, Stanton's exit velocity and longball distances rank among baseball's elite. He is a feared hitter in his prime, and pitchers want nothing to do with him.
Now, as the 88th Midsummer Classic descends upon the Little Havana ballpark, the newly announced All-Star Game Ambassador knows that, as a team leader, an All-Star Game veteran, a recent World Baseball Classic victor and the defending champion of the T-Mobile Home Run Derby, all eyes will not only be on South Florida, but on him, as well.
He's cool with it, of course, because the soft-spoken big man seems to be cool with just about everything. Before the All-Star festivities began, Stanton spoke with MLB.com about all things All-Star.
You received three All-Star nods in your first seven Major League seasons. What does the honor mean to you?
For me, it's a time to reflect, really. It's when I can sit back and look at all the work I've done. At that moment, my thoughts are not necessarily about making the All-Star team and being recognized for being a good player; they're more about the sacrifices and the long offseasons, the times when you're not doing well and you're downloading all the information, when you're trying to come back and get better, get out of the slump.
Obviously, it's a cool feeling to know that you've been recognized and you're going to be on the field with the best players in the league. But it's also a time to think about all the frustrating times that I've gone through to build myself into the player that I am. That's what I look back upon.
What was your favorite MLB team growing up, and who were your favorite All-Stars on that ballclub?
I grew up in Los Angeles, so I always rooted for the Dodgers. During those years, I was a huge fan of Raul Mondesi, Hideo Nomo (All-Stars in 1995) and Mike Piazza (12-time All-Star). But the Dodgers back then had so many All-Star players; it was hard to pick just three.
Does any Midsummer Classic stick out in your memory?
I remember the (1999) All-Star Game in Fenway Park the most. That's when I remember falling in love with the whole All-Star Week idea -- the Home Run Derby and, of course, the game itself -- and just being in awe of the showcase, of all that talent being on one field, and of it being a celebration of baseball with all the best players.
Even back then, I was most interested in the Derby, and that one was awesome. Ken Griffey Jr. and Mark McGwire were clearing the Green Monster over and over again, Sammy Sosa was there, and I was just fascinated by those guys hitting all those home runs.
Plus, Pedro [Martinez] was awesome in that All-Star Game. Just unhittable.
Video: 1999 ASG: Pedro Martinez K's five in two innings
Speaking of the Home Run Derby, you dominated the 2016 edition at Petco Park. Your homers combined to travel more than five miles and averaged 446 feet. What's the secret to victory?
Keep pace, man. With the new format (of a time limit, introduced in 2015), you just gotta keep pace. You can have a bad minute or 30 seconds and still come back, so the best strategy and the best course of action is just to have smooth and controlled swings. And you definitely have to have the stamina for it.
The fans at Marlins Park expect you to win it again, whether or not that's fair. Does that put any pressure on you? Is there usually stress in an event like that?
No, it's just fun. The only thing to really do in a Home Run Derby is have fun. If you go into the Home Run Derby feeling pressure, you're not going to have fun unless you win. Of course everyone wants to win, but you have to enjoy it, too. And that's what I got not only from competing in the Derby myself but from watching it on TV for all those years.
Seeing all those guys getting together, hitting homers, competing in a good-natured way -- back in the day, that's all I wanted to do. Now, I get to do it. And I know that kids are doing the same thing. They're watching me just like I was watching McGwire, Sosa and those guys, and they're hoping that someday they can be in the Home Run Derby, too. So you have to appreciate that. It's cool to be that person.
During the regular season, you're with the Marlins every day. The rest of the guys in the National League are your rivals. But for the All-Star Game, they're your teammates. What's that like? Are you able to bond?
I wish that would happen, but there really isn't a lot of time for it. The first thing is that we pretty much know all of the guys. It's usually the American League guys that you don't know too well because you don't get to play them much [during the regular season]. But the NL guys, I've played against a lot of them for four or five years. Even if you've never spoken and you might only play against their teams six days a year, you still at least build the respect for how the other guys play. So you go up to them at the All-Star Game and say hello.
You don't have much time to get to know each other, though, and that's especially true if I'm in the Home Run Derby. That is like a whirlwind. You're here, you're there, going from one place to another -- boom, boom, boom -- and there isn't a lot of time. But it's still a great experience.
You've been named to three All-Star teams (2012, '14 and '15) but you didn't play in two of them ('12 and '15) because of injuries. Does any particular moment stand out now from your All-Star experiences?
Video: ASG 2014: Stanton on playing with best in the game
The one that I did play in (at Target Field) was Derek Jeter's last All-Star Game. That was really cool. I also remember meeting Dee [Gordon] at the Minnesota game. He was on the Dodgers then, and now we're teammates and good friends.
Otherwise, I can't point to anything specific about it because I just remember soaking it all in, enjoying the moment. The first one is when you kind of don't realize everything until afterward because things are going a million miles an hour while you're in it.
You've been playing in Marlins Park since it opened and probably know more about its intricacies and quirks than anyone. What will fans who are there for the first time discover?
It's a beautiful place. Make sure you walk around and see all it has to offer. I like the atmosphere more when the windows are open and the roof is open, but the summer weather is probably not going to be cool enough for that, so that just means it's going to be extra loud. When the roof's closed, all the noise bounces off the top and it's really loud. Either way, just check it out, have a good time and enjoy the moment.
It seems like there's always a big party going on in the Park, with The Clevelander, the pool and the gigantic home run sculpture. Is that an accurate description of the vibe?
Absolutely. That's Miami. And All-Star Week will definitely bring a lot more of that.
This article appears in the 2017 MLB Official All-Star Game Program. Read more features on allstargame.com.
Doug Miller is a national writer for MLB.com.