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After a senior year in which Stanton hit .393 with 12 homers, the Marlins took him in the second round of the 2007 draft. As a rookie, he hit 22 home runs in 100 games after he was called up to the majors on June 8, and he hit 34 home runs last year, his first full season. In '11 he also hit the longest home runs ever measured at four ballparks.
But Stanton doesn't want to be known as just a player who can hit a ball 500 feet. "He wants to be known as a great all-around hitter," says Marlins third base coach Joey Espada. "What's so scary about the whole thing is that he's still learning."
Lately there have been fewer fireworks during Stanton's batting practices. Boston outfielder Cody Ross, a former teammate of Stanton's, told his fellow Red Sox to watch Stanton's BP before a recent game at Marlins Park, but Stanton spent the session hitting liners the other way.
These are the things he must do now, to win the battle between the mind and the body. "It gets so addicting, crushing the ball," he says. "You see everyone in practice, sometimes players on the other team, come out and watch, and in the game, you just want to unleash, too. But you have to be more controlled than powerful in the game. Sometimes you've got to bottle it up. Because when you go up there wanting to hit a home run, you don't."
One recent afternoon before a game at Tropicana Field, Stanton was taking BP, and a crowd of Marlins fans gathered in the stands near the visitors' dugout. Each time Stanton stepped up to the plate for his round of swings, they let loose with chants of "Big-foot! Big-foot!"
Stanton kept hitting the ball to rightfield, none out of the park. Then, on the last swing, he uncoiled, ripping a ball that landed about 10 rows deep in the stands in left center before rattling around the seats like a pinball. The fans cheered. Stanton walked away from the plate with his head down.
He may not have heard the cheers or the chants. But he does know what the people still go to the ballpark to see.