Image credit: Giancarlo Stanton (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES—Slowly but surely, Giancarlo Stanton is building a legacy.
He has won a Most Valuable Player Award and two home run titles. He’s been selected to five All-Star Games and won two Silver Sluggers. He won a Home Run Derby with one of the greatest power displays of all-time. He has 371 home runs at 32 years old, putting him well within reach of 500 career home runs.
Now, the Yankees slugger can add an All-Star Game MVP award, in his hometown nonetheless, to his list of accolades.
Stanton hit a mammoth game-tying, two-run home run in the fourth inning to help lead the American League to a 3-2 win over the National League in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night. His blast off Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin traveled 457 feet into the left-field stands, the same seats that Stanton used to sit in as a kid cheering on the Dodgers.
“I can’t really explain how special this is,” said Stanton, who estimated he had about 50 family and friends in attendance. “It’s hard to put into words that this is reality right now.”
Stanton grew up about 30 minutes away from Chavez Ravine and attended Notre Dame High in nearby Sherman Oaks. He grew up rooting for Raul Mondesi, Mike Piazza and Hideo Nomo with the Dodgers and always tried to come to games when Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and the game’s other great sluggers came to town. He often arrived early for batting practice and even caught a few BP home run balls. Other times, he would buy tickets from scalpers in front of the stadium and come just to see even two at-bats from the game’s greatest sluggers.
On Tuesday, starting an All-Star Game in left field not far from where he used to sit, and hitting a home run into those same left-field stands, it all came full circle.
“Me playing there, me playing in left as well, (I) always tried to get a ball thrown to me from whoever was playing left field when I was a kid,” Stanton said. “Just to be out there is so fun, so cool.”
In a cruel twist of irony, Stanton could have been a Dodger. Legendary Southern California area scout George Genovese scouted Stanton extensively at Notre Dame. He brought Stanton to Dodger Stadium for pre-draft workouts, where Stanton showed off his trademark power at a young age. Genovese pushed hard for the Dodgers to select Stanton in the 2007 draft, but the Dodgers passed up on him twice. Instead, they drafted pitchers Chris Withrow and James Adkins.
Stanton continues to punish the Dodgers for that mistake every time he steps foot in their stadium. He is a career .310/.362/.713 hitter with eight doubles and nine home runs in 23 games at Dodger Stadium. That includes a home run that hit off the roof of the left-field pavilion and bounced into the parking lot in 2015, at the time becoming just the fourth player to literally hit a ball out of Dodger Stadium.
“Coulda, shoulda, woulda,” Stanton said with a laugh.
Twins outfielder Byron Buxton followed Stanton’s home run with a homer of his own to give the AL a 3-2 lead. It was just the seventh time in All-Star Game history a team hit back-to-back home runs.
The AL pitching staff held it from there, capped by Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase striking out the side on 10 pitches in the ninth inning for the save.
Dodgers lefthander Clayton Kershaw, making his first All-Star Game start, pitched a scoreless first inning that included a moment of brevity. Kershaw allowed a single to leadoff hitter Shohei Ohtani on his first pitch, but Kershaw got even when he promptly picked Ohtani off first base.
“Honestly I didn’t know quite know what to throw yet,” Kershaw said. “Sometimes I throw over there for a second to be convicted with the pitch. I wasn’t trying to pick him off. I was trying to delay the game for a bit, but it worked out.”
“I tried to take a minute at the beginning to take it all in and look around and, which I usually never do,” Kershaw said. “And I think the moment itself, being here at Dodger Stadium, a place where I’ve been now for 15 years, and to get to do something like this with the best in the world, is really fun, and it was also really personal for me and my family. I’m excited it’s over. I did okay. I got out of there with no runs.”
The NL jumped on AL starter Shane McClanahan in the first inning to grab its early lead. Ronald Acuña Jr. led off with a double and Mookie Betts followed with an RBI single to give the NL a 1-0 lead in a span of two batters. Paul Goldschmidt added a solo home run off McClanahan later in the inning to make it 2-0.
The NL blew the lead, however, and managed only one hit after the first inning. Cardinals righthander Ryan Helsely delivered the signature performance for the NL, throwing eight pitches of at least 100 mph in a scoreless relief appearance, including two pitches at 103 mph.
But those performances all paled in comparison to Stanton and his monstrous home run that gave the AL life and fueled its comeback win. In the context of the night, it was a game-changer. In the context of Stanton’s life and career, it was a signature achievement.
“This is very special to me,” Stanton said. “I think it’s right up there with anything personally. I have some goals in terms of you know, 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.”