Giancarlo Stanton as a HS Basketball Player Was 'Like Watching Charles Barkley'

Joon Lee@iamjoonleeStaff WriterAugust 31, 2017

Aug 4, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) hits a home run against the Atlanta Braves in the fourth inning at SunTrust Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Giancarlo Stanton was not widely known when he transferred to Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California.

Before Giancarlo Stanton ever became Giancarlo Stanton—king of the home run, man of prodigious power, conductor of the Marlins Park dinger machine—he was Mike Stanton, a budding athlete with little fanfare hoping to land on one or more of Notre Dame's football, basketball and baseball teams.

Once enrolled at Notre Dame, Stanton showed then-Knights basketball coach Bill Bedgood his stats on MaxPreps. He'd averaged double-digit rebounds as a sophomore, but despite the strong numbers, Bedgood had no sense of what kind of basketball player the new kid was.

In the highly competitive world of California private-school athletics, which breeds Division I sports stars on an annual basis, Stanton came in as an unknown. None of the coaches at the school—Kevin Rooney (football), Bedgood, Tom Dill (baseball)—recruited the now-Miami Marlins slugger.

Lynne Sladky

"Occasionally, you get someone who just drops in that we didn't know anything about," Dill said. "Mike just showed up."

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Bedgood looked at Stanton's stats and figured, sight unseen, their new high school junior could help out the team in one way or another. Following the end of the football season, Stanton walked into practice, and Bedgood had no expectations. In the first two minutes of the team's scrimmage, Stanton grabbed every single rebound—both offensive and defensive.

"We had three college basketball players on that team and two Division I football players," Bedgood said. "Mike outshined all of them."

Everyone now knows Stanton as the man rumbling toward the 60-homer mark, with 18 just in the month of August. He broke Gary Sheffield's previous Marlins single-season record of 42 homers with more than a month-and-a-half before the end of the season. His 51 homers is 14 more than the next-highest player has, Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees.

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 29: Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the Miami Marlins stands on deck in the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on August 29, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

For his prowess on the baseball field, basketball was Stanton's favorite to play, which is why Dill made sure his star outfielder played the sport his senior year when he considered quitting to prep for the MLB draft.

"He said basketball was his favorite sport to play, so I asked him, 'If you enjoy playing it the most, why would you quit playing?'" Dill said. "That was the end of the conversation."

Stanton's folk-hero strength dates back to his days in high school. Back then, Stanton stood 6'4", two inches shorter than his height today, and weighed around 200 pounds, nearly 50 pounds less than his present-day weight. That strength, while prominent on the baseball field, shined on the basketball court, where the now-27-year-old All-Star outmuscled opponents as an undersized power forward, reminding his coach of another dominating hooper who was small for his position. 

"He got so many rebounds through traffic," Bedgood said. "He was playing 6'10" guys, and I've even seen him play against 7-footers, and it made no difference. He would get his body into their body and they would bounce off. Then he would go straight up and finish.

"It would be like watching Charles Barkley play."

Derik Hamilton

While several memories stick in Bedgood's head when talking about Stanton's basketball career—the 33 points and 22 rebounds against Harvard-Westlake, leading the team in scoring (19.7 points) and rebounds (13.5 boards) his senior year, the USC football coaching staff all coming to watch Stanton play basketball in an attempt to recruit him—it was "Mike's play" that sticks out.

"He asked us to run a play for one of our wings who wasn't shooting the ball great," Bedgood said. "Mike said, 'Can you run that play where our 3-man shoots the three and then misses it and then I get the rebound and put it back in?' And I was like, 'That's actually for a 3-man, and that's been what's happening, and you've been cleaning it up.'"

Dill, who is now going into his 26th season as Notre Dame's baseball coach, did not know whether Stanton's strength would translate from the football field and basketball court. Because of the habitual nature of baseball, strength and athletic ability doesn't always translate to the diamond. But Stanton quickly quieted any concerns by blasting multiple shots not just over the fences, but onto the fields of other sports at the school.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 24: Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the Miami Marlins celebrates in the dugout against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on August 24, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

"He hit a lot of balls on the football field and hit some balls in games that far," Dill said. "I never had someone who hit balls that far in games.

"I remember one ball he hit during his senior year against Crespi, and it went by the goalpost that was on the south end of the football field. That's like 460-470 feet, left-center, center field. He hit one in a game out there. He hit a few absolute bombs that I had never seen anyone hit at this level."

Stanton felt as if football was his best sport, but baseball was his future. The scouts soon poured into Notre Dame's scenic baseball stadium. After games, teams would set up batting practice, and with a wood bat Stanton would take swings.

"Every ball was a home run," Dill said. "One thing I'd never seen before was that I felt like he hit wood better than he hit aluminum."

Everyone, including the opposing teams, stayed after games to watch Stanton's show for the scouts. He'd become why people dropped in. Everyone knew Mike Stanton.