See also: Gallo Takes Batting Practice
MINNEAPOLIS—Even when the games don't count, Joey Gallo comes prepared to do what he does best—leave spectators slack-jawed in the wake of his otherworldly ability to hit baseballs into the most unreachable nooks and crannies a stadium has to offer.
So far this year, that talent has earned him endless plaudits from evaluators and an early promotion to Double-A. On Sunday, after his blast in the sixth inning snatched the lead away from the World squad, it also earned him the MVP award of the Futures Game.
"After the first two at-bats I just wanted to make contact and not embarrass myself too much by striking out," he said. "I got a 2-0 pitch and was just like, 'I'm going to try to hit this one out.'"
Astros righthander Michael Feliz dealt a fastball—95 miles per hour, to be exact—and Gallo responded by parking it midway into the second deck. What would have been a fairly Herculean shot for other players was almost commonplace for Gallo, who makes a regular practice of stretching tape measures to their limits.
When asked about the last time he hit a wall-scraper, Gallo was stumped.
Instead, Kris Bryant, the Cubs prospect and Gallo's fellow monster-mashing son of Las Vegas, responded for him with a simple "never."
After a chuckle and moment to reflect, Gallo still couldn't come up with a moment when a home run he'd hit was in doubt even for a moment.
"I hit one the other week that was right down the line that was kind of a pop-up but it went out by a little bit," he said. "That was probably the closest so far."
Judging by the oohs, ahhs and applause from the fans in batting practice, it was clear early on that the day belonged to Gallo, and that the people in Minneapolis wanted to see the man whose home runs have blurred the line between reality and hyperbole.
With that in mind, he let it all hang out this time, a departure from the more reserved practice sessions he takes during the regular season.
"Usually I just go out there and just hit balls to center, but obviously at an event like this you want to go out there and swing it," he said. "I don't during regular BP just because I don't want to get worn out swinging as hard as I can every pitch for no reason. I just work on things during regular BP."
Obviously, cheers during batting practice are far from normal, save for maybe some sarcastic ribbing from a teammate or two. So when he realized what was going on behind him, he tried to crank it up a little bit more.
"I can hear them, and especially in BP it was kind of fun to feed off that," he said. "I'd hit one far and they'd 'Oooooh' and start clapping like it was a home run derby, so I was like 'I'll keep going, I guess.'"
In four rounds, Gallo tagged 13 home runs, none a cheap shot. One ball went so far, in fact, that it cleared the stands and shattered the window of a pick-up truck meant for the winner of the upcoming Home Run Derby.
Naturally, for the reigning minor league home run champ, a man with 93 home runs in the minor leagues before his 21st birthday, breaking a windshield with a bomb isn't a unique occurrence. The last time he did it was last year in Asheville, where home runs come in droves.
"I broke one last year in Asheville, and that was actually somebody's car," he said, "so I feel bad about that one. That was out there was for show."
To a man, everyone involved was left struck by Gallo's performance.
But the players are in their 20s and haven't been around the game nearly as long as some others, such as Tom Kelly, a baseball lifer and the manager of the U.S. squad. He's seen countless homers and batting practice sessions and prospects, and even he came away impressed with what he saw on Sunday.
"It's well-advertised that he can hit the ball a long way, and he did," Kelly said. "And that ball just kept going and going . . . You can see in batting practice, the ball just keeps going."
After performing in relative anonymity for nearly all his career, Gallo gave the baseball world a preview of it will soon be seeing with regularity in major league ballparks.