It was the summer of 2005 when Tim McDonnell, an assistant coach at Long Beach State at the time, got a glimpse of Giancarlo Stanton. He was built like a tight end, ran like a wide receiver and could hit a baseball with power that brought back memories of Mark
It was the summer of 2005 when Tim McDonnell, an assistant coach at Long Beach State at the time, got a glimpse of Giancarlo Stanton. He was built like a tight end, ran like a wide receiver and could hit a baseball with power that brought back memories of Mark McGwire in his USC days.
"It was one of those smaller showcases, the kind not everybody knows about, but I liked them, feeling I could get an extra look at [potential recruits]," said McDonnell.
McDonnell really liked what he saw from Stanton, who was about to become a junior at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
More than two years later, McDonnell, who had since become an area scout for the Marlins, remembered Stanton. Other scouts seemed to cool on Stanton early in his senior season in high school, doubtful about his ability to make consistent contact and concerned about the USC football/baseball possibility he had. McDonnell, however, never wavered in pushing Stanton to the top of his Draft list.
McDonnell gave the Marlins a strong enough sales pitch that they made Stanton their second-round pick in 2007, the 76th player taken overall.
Nobody is questioning McDonnell's scouting report a decade later.
Now, that's not to say Stanton has been living on easy street. But his early impact was such that the Marlins did give him a record-setting 13-year, $325 million contract in November 2014, even though late in that season, he took a fastball in the face. And then came a broken left hand in '15 and a month-long battle with a groin injury in '16.
Stanton, however, has answered the challenges created by those three injury-plagued seasons, putting an exclamation point at the end of his declaration.
On Monday night, Stanton hit his 43rd home run of the season, a Marlins franchise record with 45 games remaining in the regular season. He extended his home run streak to five games, three shy of Dale Long's record of eight that Stanton's Marlins manager, Don Mattingly, tied in 1987 and Ken Griffey Jr. matched in '93. And it was Stanton's 10th homer in 11 games and 22nd in his past 34 games.
It came the day after Stanton hit his 250th career home run in his 941st game. Only Ryan Howard (855), Ralph Kiner (871), Harmon Killebrew (905), Jose Pujols (933) and Juan Gonzalez (936) did it in fewer games.
"I know [Marlins hitting coach] Tim Wallach and texted him earlier this year and told him that's the best I have ever seen [Stanton]," said McDonnell. "He is sticking to his plan, he is getting his work in. That hurdle he needed to get over? He has been able to do that."
The hurdle? Dealing with that fastball to the face. In the aftermath of that incident, Stanton backed off the plate and became vulnerable to pitches away. This year, he has closed his stance and has reaffirmed his ability to hit the ball away.
• Leader Watch: Stanton on pace for 60-HR '17
None of that surprises McDonnell.
"He is a guy who has dealt with real adversity," said McDonnell. "He doesn't take anything for granted. "
Neither did McDonnell, a first-year scout the year Stanton became Draft eligible. He watched Stanton hit home runs that seemed like they would never come down. And he saw him strike out at a Dave Kingman-type pace. And while those swings and misses kept other scouts from being believers in Stanton, McDonnell wasn't deterred.
And McDonnell made believers of his bosses with the Marlins.
"I remember watching him take batting practice for the Area Code Games,'' said Marlins senior adviser of player personnel Orrin Freeman. "He was hitting balls out of Blair Field and on to the golf course. You never saw that in the game. We had a scout who had been an assistant at Long Beach State and he believed in the guy. He saw him hit 500-foot home runs and run to first in 4.1 seconds."
Stanton was a three-sport star in high school, with an offer to play football and baseball at USC, but the Trojans' coaches, looking to save a scholarship, wanted him to apply for financial aid. Stanton wasn't interested. He was a baseball player at heart, anyway.
In high school, though, Stanton would go directly from the basketball court to the baseball field. He struggled early in the season, and that was enough for some scouts to write him off.
"There was nothing wrong with his swing," said McDonnell. "I liked it. He had a limited knowledge of balls and strikes. He would chase pitches out of the zone, pitches that were not strikes. But he didn't miss strikes. That's what I stayed focus on. If he learned the strike zone you knew he would be special. I just thought about his raw power and his speed. You dream about guys with that kind of talent."
Sweet dreams if he's on your team. Nightmares if you are on the mound when he is at the plate.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.