MINNEAPOLIS -- The only way Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton could have lived up to the pre-event hype in Monday's Gillette Home Run Derby would have been winning the whole darn thing.
After he blasted six prodigious home runs in Round 1, one of which nearly exited Target Field entirely, it appeared he might just do it.
"He's the one guy, before any of the teams were named, before anybody went on, that I wanted to watch hit in this thing," said the Rockies' Justin Morneau, the final player added to the National League's Derby field. "He's a freak."
Morneau got his wish during Stanton's jaw-dropping first round, but Stanton was iced during a long layoff before he next stepped to the plate. A zero-homer performance in the semifinals bounced Stanton from his first big league Home Run Derby.
"I can't believe I goose-egged my second round," Stanton said with a smile.
Here's how the event worked this year: Each of the 10 participants, five in each league, swung until he produced seven "outs" in the first round. Three from each league advanced, with the leading hitter in each league earning a bye past Round 2. In the end, one hitter from each league went head to head.
So after producing six home runs in his prodigious first round, Stanton waited more than an hour before stepping to the plate again.
"It made a bigger difference than I thought it would," he said. "I just kind of have to find something to do in that time to stay warm, but not game-ready warm to be out there. It's definitely a speed bump I couldn't get over in this one, but it was still fun."
His opening round was especially fun. With Marlins manager Mike Redmond serving batting-practice fastballs, Stanton hit fourth of the five NL participants and delivered on the hype.
Stanton's first swing produced a home run to center field. He had four homers before he had four outs, including one that reached the stadium's third deck and another that completely cleared the batter's eye in center field. But his final home run of the round easily topped that, a towering fly that brought whole sections of the left-field upper deck to its feet.
The ball nearly departed Target Field entirely, landing instead in a lucky glove more than halfway up the seating section. ESPN, which was broadcasting the event, estimated the baseball would have traveled 510 feet if the pesky upper deck would not have gotten in the way.
"That was the charity ball, too," said Stanton, referring to Gillette's fundraising initiative tied to home runs hit Monday. "You never know how those are going to fly. It's tough to pick those up as well, so that's definitely cool."
At one point, Stanton stepped away from the plate and raised both arms in the air, drawing a huge cheer.
"That's what you've got to do," he said, vowing this was not his final Home Run Derby. "That's what the people are here for."
No participant generated as much pre-event buzz as the 24-year-old Stanton, and not because he was tied with fellow NL slugger Troy Tulowitzki for the league lead in home runs (21) at the All-Star break.
It was the look of the man. At 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds, he was built to swing for the fences.
"Don't stand me beside Giancarlo Stanton," said hometown favorite Brian Dozier of the Twins, "because that guy looks like a horse. That guy is double my size."
Stanton was the fifth Marlins player to take part in the Derby, following Gary Sheffield (1996), Miguel Cabrera (2006), Dan Uggla (2008) and Hanley Ramirez (2010). Stanton has already belted 138 career homers, temporarily tying Cabrera for fourth most in franchise history and only 16 shy of Uggla's club-record mark.
According to ESPN's Hit Tracker, Stanton averages 423.8 feet per home run, tops in the Majors. His go-ahead home run off the Dodgers' Stephen Fife on May 5 sped off the bat at 119.5 mph, tied with Boston's David Ortiz for the hardest-hit homer of the season. Stanton's 484-foot blast off the Padres' Eric Stultz on April 4 was the second-longest home run of the season to a Mike Trout 489-footer.
"You've got a guy who can hit 700 feet in the batter's box," Braves closer Craig Kimbrel said, "you kind of feel uncomfortable."
Both of those long Stanton homers were slugged at spacious Marlins Park, one of the least hitter-friendly venues in the game.
"He's kind of in a class of his own," said Morneau. "It's unfortunate that he has to play in such a big park, because he's a guy that has 50-home run power. It's good for the game when you have guys like that, and they're able to take advantage of their abilities."