PHILADELPHIA -- It has always been a dream of Giancarlo Stanton to participate in the Home Run Derby. When the event would unfold each summer in his youth, the Marlins' star outfielder would find himself on the edge of his seat, wide eyes glued to the television. It became a tradition.
"Watched it every year," Stanton said.
The 24-year-old shouldn't have to dream much longer.
Whenever National League derby captain and squad selector Troy Tulowitzki sits down to decide who his four teammates will be for the competition, choosing Stanton should be as effortless as the Miami slugger's home run swing.
Every at-bat for Stanton -- who leads the NL with 20 round-trippers -- has become a must-see event. His average distance of 426 feet per homer is 6.4 more feet than the next closest qualifier, according to ESPN's Home Run Tracker.
He's blasted them far -- his 484-foot bomb that sailed to the end of the Budweiser Balcony at Marlins Park is the longest homer of 2014.
"He absolutely crushed that ball, but it doesn't surprise me," Marlins pitcher Tom Koehler said. "I've seen him hit balls further."
And he's hammered them hard -- the speed off the bat for Stanton's seemingly physics-defying homer on June 17 was calculated at 110.7 mph, ESPN Stats & Info estimated.
"It was a line drive -- I just didn't think it had 400 feet of carry on it," said Cubs pitcher Jason Hammel, who gave up the homer. "He's a strong boy."
"That's the hardest ball I've ever seen hit," Marlins manager Mike Redmond said.
Stanton wasn't chosen by last year's NL captain David Wright, and the slugger was forced to skip the event in 2012 because of arthroscopic knee surgery shortly before the All-Star break.
"That wasn't frustrating at all, because it was out of my control," Stanton said.
But Stanton is healthy this season, and if the shows he puts on for the early-arrivers at batting practice are at all indicative of what could be expected of his performance in the Derby, the NL would be in good shape with Stanton in its lineup.
Still, despite how many balls he launches during batting practice, Stanton doesn't swing for the fences as he prepares for a game.
"That's not my approach in BP. So I'll have to practice a little bit if the time comes," he said. "The Derby is different because you have 40, 50, 100 swings that you're all letting loose, so it's different."
He's got the power pedigree that warrants his candidacy more than any other power-hitter in the league, and he also probably wants it more than any of them.
"It'd be huge, just like making it to the big leagues is big," Stanton said. "You leave a special place for every big achievement that you dreamt of or always wanted to do, so it would fit right into that category."
You can still have a say in determining the participants. The All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian also features the Gillette Home Run Derby Fan Poll. Select up to three candidates in each league, and the final results will be considered as the captains determine the field in consultation with MLB.
There is another important part of the captain duty. The Gillette Home Run Derby will again raise funds for MLB's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program and Boys & Girls Clubs of America, as well as charities selected by the captains. More than $3 million has been raised for charity over the past 10 years, including an all-time high of $615,000 donated in 2012.
MLB.com Home Run Derby is a great way to get caught up in the action right now, with Target Field as the setting. Join millions who are playing this all-new game, which is available for download on the Apple App Store and Google Play. New for 2014 is Multiplayer Derby Mode, Arcade Mode and Single Player Derby Mode.
Erik Bacharach is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less