Legend of Stanton's Suns homer lives on

Yankees slugger may have smacked longest blast in Minors

Giancarlo Stanton led the Minors with 21 home runs when he was called by the Marlins on June 8, 2010. (Scott Jontes/MiLB.com)

By Rob Terranova / MiLB.com | February 6, 2019 10:00 AM

The Loch Ness Monster.

The Abominable Snowman.

The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.

The home run that Giancarlo Stanton hit at Riverwalk Stadium on May 6, 2010.

OK, maybe that moonshot off the bat of the 20-year-old Marlins top prospect doesn't quite hold the legendary status as the others. But it's close.

There is no video of the flight of the ball, where it landed remains hearsay and -- despite a "search team" being sent into the wooded area beyond the left-center field scoreboard where the ball exited like a bullet to the collective gasp from the 3,989 in attendance -- it was never located. Still, the story of the home run that Stanton (known at the time as Mike) mashed as a member of the Double-A Jacksonville Suns continues to be told, especially in Montgomery, Alabama.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Triple-A Buffalo hitting coach Corey Hart, who served in the same role with Jacksonville in 2010. "It was so effortless and it was so loud. That sound, I'll never forget it. You just heard that crack and it was like, 'Oh, my goodness!' You don't hear that sound very often.

"Then the way it was traveling was unbelievable. It cleared the scoreboard by about two or three feet and it was still going up. It wasn't like it was going down at that point. To think about how far it went … it was just amazing. Well beyond 500 feet."

The official estimate of the homer was 500 feet, but no one knows how that number came to be. The base of the wall in front of the scoreboard at Riverwalk Stadium is 380 feet, where the fence is just short of 14 feet tall, and above that is a concourse that's about 12 feet wide. Above that is the scoreboard, which is "about 60 feet high." Beyond that there are railroad tracks and a wooded area, and well into the distance is the Alabama River. There is a unanimous consensus among those who were present that the ball cleared the tracks and was lost among the trees. However, some believe the reason it was never found is because it made it to the water.

"I was standing on the concourse underneath the scoreboard at the time, talking to someone, not really paying attention," said Scott Trible, who was the Biscuits' director of sales and later served as the team's general manager. "And the second he hit it, I just stopped mid-sentence and looked up. The ball flew right over me and I remember it just kept continuously rising and after it cleared, we just looked at each other and said, 'I think that went over the scoreboard.' And that never even crossed my mind as a possibility.

"It was incredible. It was a line drive that traveled that far and it was still going. And the sound was so memorable. I remember that more than anything. Even the fans, the players, anyone who was there was just like, 'What just happened?' I've been around baseball for a long time. I saw some of the greatest power hitters play -- Bonds, Pujols -- but I never heard a baseball make a sound like that off a wooden bat. If I had to guess, given the velocity and the height, that ball went at least 520 feet."

The Suns -- who became the Jumbo Shrimp in 2017 -- were concluding a three-game road series against the Biscuits in a Thursday matinee getaway game. Stanton was MLB.com's No. 3 prospect -- behind Braves outfielder Jason Heyward and Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg -- and his penchant for the long ball was well-established as he entered the series leading the Minors with 13 in only 25 games. He was 1-for-3 with a double and two punchouts that afternoon and 2-for-12 in the series before stepping to the plate in the sixth inning.


"A few times after he hit some really far ones I would ask him, 'Was that as far as Montgomery?' and he always said, 'No, Montgomery was farther.'"
 
-- Tom Koehler, longtime teammate

The 2007 second-round pick faced right-hander Dane De La Rosa, who was in his third inning of relief and appeared to be tiring. There was one out and Jacksonville shortstop Osvaldo Martinez was on first after singling to right.

"The pitcher was throwing really hard. He was up around 95 with all his fastballs, but in that inning we could see he was starting to get some fatigue," Hart said. "He was leaving balls up in the zone. And [Stanton] liked the ball at his front hip so that he could get inside of it, and they were trying to bust him in there and it was just a perfect moment of taking the cages work into the game.

"He hit a lot of home runs to that point, and I remember he said he rarely ever really gets one. He got that one."

Stacy Long, who covered the Biscuits for the Montgomery Advertiser for 11 years, approached Stanton after the game and jokingly asked the 6-foot-6, 245-pound slugger, "So, did you get all of that one?" The youngster simply smirked.

"I didn't see it go over. I first thought it might hit me in the face," Stanton told Long, referring to his own image on the Jumbotron.

Long explained that Stanton couldn't have seen it because as soon as he hit it, he just put his head down and trotted to first, as he always did.

"I was in the press box talking to a Rays guy and I remember our conversation stopped immediately on contact, and we just were in awe," Long said, adding that he was pretty sure all conversations in the park stopped at that moment. "I remember the ball crested after it crossed the scoreboard and you could still see it in the lights. It went past the railroad tracks and well into the trees.

"The other thing I remember is that [De La Rosa] threw 59 pitches that night, and the hardest of the 59 was the one right after he gave up that homer. It came in at 98."

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Peter Bragan Jr., then the Suns president and general manager, didn't make the trip to Alabama with the team.

"I was back in Florida, but I remember listening to it on our radio and everyone just raving about it," he said. "But that was [Stanton]. Nothing he does could surprise me anymore. I remember there was a ... game at home where he hit three home runs in the game, and his second one was a check swing that cleared the wall. He checked his swing and he's so strong it carried over the fence in right. I remember that was part of a stretch where he hit five homers in 18 hours. He was the closest thing I've ever seen to a home run hitting machine."


Audio: Stanton drills tape-measure homer


"Whenever he came up, you watched and, well, this time he really delivered," said J.P. Shadrick, the voice of the Jacksonville Jaguars who was the Suns' play-by-play broadcaster from 2006-10. "You could tell the pitcher was getting tired and he threw one dead-red, belt high, and Stanton just hammered it. It was like a cannon. I mean, you maybe heard it like that in BP sometimes, but Stanton would bring that into the game. And that one was an all-timer."

Dodgers play-by-play voice Joe Davis, who was the Biscuits broadcaster at the time, agreed.

"I have a vivid memory of the ball traveling over the 'B' logo above the scoreboard and then just completely vanishing out of the park," he said. "The vision of the ball clearing that is just burnt into my brain, because it was just so far beyond anything we'd ever seen there. And then I remember seeing him outside the team bus the next day and thinking to myself, 'What else is there for him to do here?'"

The Suns won the game, 9-3, and the Marlins called Stanton up on June 8. He was leading the Minors with 21 dingers and the Southern League in RBIs (52), on-base percentage (.441), slugging percentage (.726), walks (44) and total bases (138). He was batting .311.

Billy Gardner, a roving coordinator for the Nationals who was the Biscuits' manager from 2007-13, told the Advertiser after the monster homer, "You can't stop Stanton, you just hope you can contain him. And we had done a good job until that."

The aura of Stanton's power has only grown in the Majors after his showcases in two Home Run Derbies, the moonshot he hit in Spring Training with the Marlins in 2014 and the second longest recorded homer in the Statcast era, which he mashed 504 feet at Colorado's Coors Field in 2016.

Still, legend has it that the longest shot he ever hit came in Montgomery while he was a prospect clawing his way to The Show.

"I remember I was filling in because there was no video coordinator and the previous night's starting pitcher was in charge of the camera," said right-hander Tom Koehler, who was teammates with Stanton on the Suns and with the Marlins for six seasons. "I didn't get to see the ball travel, but I know the entire crowd, just everything went completely silent. There was complete shock. People were pointing. It was a fairy tale kind of moment. It was just one of those things where no one knew what to do. No one had seen anything like that. Most people have never played with anyone who could do that. I had seen him hit home runs before that, but that was the first time I thought, 'Man, this guy has some serious juice.'

"His power was second to none, and then I had the chance to see it firsthand [in the Majors]. A few times after he hit some really far ones I would ask him, 'Was that as far as Montgomery?' And he always said, 'No, Montgomery was farther.'"

At Riverwalk Stadium, the dinger remains the subject of frequent conversation.

"Whenever I would give tours to either fans or new employees, or have to give a speech at a cooperate outing and it involved being on the concourse underneath the scoreboard, I also told that story," Trible said. "I would point up above to the 'B' that's on top of the scoreboard and say, 'Stanton hit a ball over that.' It's just become part of the lure here. Sure, it's an opposing player, but anyone who was there that night wouldn't ever forget it."

For the former Biscuits broadcaster who's gone on to a big league career of his own, it's an unforgettable moment from his road to The Show.

"I often get questions about who I got to cover in the Minors," Davis said, "and with so many guys that are now big-time Major Leaguers, it might be tough to single one out, but that's the first story that always comes to mind. And I think it's just because of the scale of the Minor League park and the way the hit just dwarfed the park the way that it did. It was like a big kid playing in a little kids' sandbox kind of thing."

Tweet from @JonSantucci: Stanton's home run hit the top of the black netting. My guess: 525 ft. #Marlins #SpringTraining @TCPalm pic.twitter.com/RPDE8LOZMg

Hart remained in the Marlins organization through 2015, keeping an eye on Stanton's homers all the while.

"The only one I ever saw him hit that was anything close to the one in Montgomery was the one in Spring Training at St. Lucie [in 2014]," the hitting coach said. "When I saw that one, it gave me memories of this one, the way it completely cleared everything and almost went into the next field. But still, I think the one in Montgomery went farther."

Rob Terranova is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RobTnova24. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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