The patriotic tune "America the Beautiful" opens up with a poetic line that describes the vast expanse of land that spans much of the United States: "Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain." Well, if the 2017 MLB season was any barometer, those spacious skies are more
The patriotic tune "America the Beautiful" opens up with a poetic line that describes the vast expanse of land that spans much of the United States: "Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain." Well, if the 2017 MLB season was any barometer, those spacious skies are more crowded by the minute.
Collectively, Major League players hit 6,105 home runs last season, shattering the record set in 2000. And while there were plenty of sluggers who played a crucial role in setting the new mark, three standout performances drove the 2017 home run train. A pair of Rookies of the Year, Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge and Dodgers first baseman Cody Bellinger, had record-breaking campaigns of their own; and the reigning National League MVP, Giancarlo Stanton, put on a hitting clinic in Miami before being traded to New York and forming this generation's version of the Bash Brothers with Judge.
Collectively, the trio hit 150 regular-season home runs that accumulated a total length of more than 11 miles. While that figure isn't quite big enough to cover the 2,800-plus miles from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, these three hitters have stats that stack up against some of the most iconic attractions across America, and they all got their start on local Little League fields.
The West Wing: Cody Bellinger
2017 HR total: 39
Cody Bellinger's meteoric rise to the far reaches of the universe almost didn't happen. It took an injury to then-incumbent Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez for Bellinger to even get called up to the Big Leagues in 2017. He was nearly unstoppable upon his debut in late April, though, belting 39 homers and driving in 97 runs in just 132 games to help L.A. to the best record in baseball. His .581 slugging percentage was second among rookies to play at least 100 games, trailing only Judge, and his 39 longballs broke the National League mark for first-year players previously held by Wally Berger and Frank Robinson.
Bellinger's 39 homers traveled a total length that checks in at just under three miles -- or 1.2 times as long as the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where the Dodgers have their very own star signifying their importance to the Los Angeles community. While his homers can't quite match up to the 655-mile, picturesque Pacific Coast Highway, Bellinger's blasts would definitely get pulled over for speeding. The first baseman's average exit velocity finished at just under 90 miles per hour in 2017, while the PCH posts a top speed limit of 60 mph. With a full season ahead of him in 2018, Bellinger will look to add even more mileage.
Beast of the East: Aaron Judge
2017 HR total: 52
Aaron Judge nearly became the third player ever to win both Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in the same season. Astros star Jose Altuve beat him out for the latter honor, but he took the American League by storm in his first full season, posting the Yankees' first 50-home run campaign since Alex Rodriguez in 2007. Judge also led the league in runs scored and walks while finishing in the top five in OBP and slugging percentage. Not bad for a freshman.
It's going to be difficult to follow up numbers like that, but if anyone can handle the bright lights of New York City, it's the mild-mannered Judge, whose 6-foot-7 frame now has extra protection in the lineup thanks to Stanton's equally gargantuan physique. If you add up all of Judge's home run distances from 2017, you'll get a sum that's more than 13 times the height of the iconic Empire State Building, which stands at 1,454 feet with its antenna. It's also roughly the distance between Yankee Stadium and the Bronx Zoo, where they house just a few creatures that can match Judge's brute strength. If you combine Judge's home run length with Stanton's, you can follow the path of the baseball all the way from the Bronx to Teaneck, N.J., more than eight miles away.
Mashed Taters: Giancarlo Stanton
2017 HR total: 59
There may not have been a single player last year that could completely change the game with a single swing the way Stanton did. From July 1 through August 31, the slugger belted 30 longballs, including 18 in August, which tied a record for that particular month. The power output - while a career high by far -- wasn't unexpected from Stanton, who averages more than 40 home runs per 162 games for his career. A history of injuries, rather than opposing pitching, has been his primary deterrent from previously reaching the 40-homer mark.
While the Marlins are going to miss his presence in the lineup, opposing pitchers in the National League can breathe a lot easier this season. His nearly 4.5 miles of home runs in 2017 were more than Judge or Bellinger, and could stretch the entire length of Key West, which sits at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys at a hair under four miles long. With the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry now renewed, Stanton hopes to carry his 92 mph average exit velocity from 2017 into this season, with his eyes set on Boston's Landsdowne Street beyond Fenway Park's Green Monster.
Dylan Hornik is a reporter for MLB.com. This article originally appeared in the 2018 Little League Magazine.