MIAMI So much for the concerns about the challenge Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton faced with the dimensions and winds in the newly opened Marlins Park.
Stanton has conquered the elements.
More importantly, he has shown he can handle the attention that comes with a center stage role.
He unloaded on a 3-2 pitch from Rockies lefty Jamie Moyer in the fourth inning on Monday night that erased the Rockies 4-0 first-inning, putting the Marlins up 6-2 en route to a 7-4 win. It traveled what initially was announced as 438 feet, but a day later had stretched to 461 feet, according to hittrackeronline.com, which by Thursday had it listed at 462 feet. And it traveled 5 mph faster 122.4 mph than any other home run hit since hittrackeronline.com started tracking in 2006.
Oh, and it allowed Stanton, who turns 23 on Nov. 6, to join Eddie Matthews, Ted Williams and Ken Griffey Jr., as the only players with four grand slams prior to turning 23.
"Three Hall of Famers, and I'm No. 4," Stanton said. "Good company."
"Maybe I'll get five before I'm 23," he added.
Then again, maybe Stanton will have six or seven.
He's one of the game's emerging superstars, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound physical specimen, who turned down a scholarship to play tight end at the University of Southern California to sign with the Marlins. The organization drafted him in the second round of the 2007 draft, and had him in the big leagues three years later, after seeing him hit 89 home runs in 324 minor-league games.
"He is still learning how to play, at the big league level, but the kid has a lot of confidence," said Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen. "The kid has a chance to be very special. He is very dangerous. I thought Jim Thome had power, but this kid has ridiculous power. I don't see anybody with more power than him in the big leagues."
He has enough power that he lined the grand slam off Jamie Moyer off the scoreboard that sits on the concourse at Marlins Park, behind the left field seats, knocking out a portion of the signage, which was working again the next day. Asked if club president Dave Samson sent him a bill for the repair, he explained, "I haven't' seen one, but I'm not paying for it."
No question about the fact that after being denied two home runs in the season opener by the new ballpark, Stanton has adjusted to the facility, and Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria gets at least an assist, having responded to players complaints that when the side panels of the stadium are open, the ocean breeze comes direct in from left field, knocking balls down.
Not that the place will ever be confused for Coors Field.
"There is no question that in this park you have to hit the ball good to get it out," he said. "You are not going to have that one where you just miss and get it out. You have to get all of it."
And if it doesn't clear the fence, there is no saving grace, like there was in the Marlins old ballpark, no matter what name the facility went under for that season. The dimension to left field was much more friendly than the 335 down the line of Marlins Park, but the lined shots like Stanton so often hits frequently ricocheted off the high left field fence.
"What were doubles off the fence in the other park are outs here," said Stanton.
Not that Stanton is complaining.
The Marlins certainly aren't complaining.
Stanton gives them a home-grown power hitter, who could easily evolve into the face of the franchise. He has that baseball skill that thrills fans, raw power, and is at comfort in discussing where he fits into the overall picture.
"Why not?" he said. "You're not going to hide from doing something well, and helping the team win, and bringing commotion and attention to us playing well."
The Marlins are playing well. They went into Wednesday night's game against their 1993 expansion cousins from Colorado with a 24-19 record, having won six of their last eight games.
"He is a big part of what we are doing here," said Guillen.
And he figures to become an even bigger part.
Until his junior year in high school, Stanton never focused on one sport. He played football in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring.
"I loved not having too much of one sport," he said. "Every three, four months, I'd move to another sport and it kept me interested."
Most of his attention came for his ability on the football field, with basketball second on the list because of his strength and inside game. Baseball, however, was the challenge he liked the most, prompting his focus to turn to the diamond. He hit .200 that junior season, but caught the attention of scouts in summer work and then during his senior season.
"I wanted to see what I could do if I got serious about one sport," he said. "I feel I made the right choice."
The Marlins certainly aren't complaining.