Giancarlo Stanton strips down
This is an extended interview from the 2013 ESPN The Magazine Body Issue. Subscribe to The Mag today!
What kind of athlete were you growing up?
GS: I played basketball, baseball and football. I never had much downtime. But I think playing multiple sports helped tremendously in my baseball career. I have the agility of all three combined into one. Being a receiver in football helps me track down the ball in the outfield; hitting is similar to boxing out in basketball. It requires the same quick stability as hitting -- locking into the ground and putting all my force into it. Not to mention, playing three sports brought out all my athleticism.
USC was interested in having you as a wide receiver. Why did you turn that down?
GS: I was 17, and I just weighed my options. I was between playing both sports in college or sticking with one, and I figured I'd be a lot better if I focused on one. I decided to give it three years, see where I was (I'd only be 20) and then decide whether I was making strides or should go back to college, play football and get a degree.
Were you always this strong?
GS: I could always hit the ball really far, but you don't need to be strong to do that. In football, I was pretty much the biggest at my position. But until sophomore year, I was middle of the pack, size-wise. That year I grew about six inches and fit into the body I have now. Until that point, I wasn't really a standout.
What do you like about your body?
GS: I like that I've been able to maintain a good stomach and chest. Push-ups and sit-ups are my go-to. It is the simplest routine and the best thing to maintain my stomach and chest. I'll do about 100 of each a day, usually when I'm already warmed up. I do 50, 50, 50, 50, then roll out. It takes less than five minutes.
If you could change something about your body, what would it be?
GS: To have better legs. They're not as cut as my upper body. It's harder to put weight on the legs with our schedule. Upper body isn't used all day -- you swing and throw -- but you're on your feet for five to eight hours a day, so the rest has to be maintenance for your legs. It's fine, I'm not a bodybuilder, but if I had to change something it would be that.
What is your favorite thing to do to train?
GS: Training isn't fun for me. I do it because it's what my body needs, and I have a standard. It's a thing I make sure I do. But I'd say push-ups are the one thing I couldn't live without.
What is something you do in the gym that you're particularly proud of?
GS: There usually aren't heavy enough dumbbells for me. It's a problem especially on the road. They usually only go up to 100. I need heavier weights for squats or bench pressing or rowing, so I deal with it by doing more reps.
What is the biggest challenge you face with your body?
GS: Travel and maintenance. When we have a night game before a day game and fly out the next day, you have to schedule a little workout routine. Then add the tired factor from an extra-inning game or a game that's 1,000 degrees, plus flying. Then there are my cheat days. If I'm going to cheat, I'm going to cheat. It's not, "Oh, I'll have one bite." I'm eating the whole thing, and you order your own. Those days come when I want them. I'm a sweets guy: Kit Kat, AirHeads, Cinnabons, cinnamon pretzels, carrot cake. Oh, and fried Oreos, of course. Those are probably No. 1.
Tell us about the struggle between mind and body when you step up to the plate.
GS: Baseball is completely in your mind. From about Double-A on, just about every one of those guys can play in the big leagues. It's a matter of bringing it every day. It's about the way you overcome it when you're not feeling good, when you're not at your best, when something's off. You better figure out a way to do it because the pitcher doesn't care, the other team doesn't care and your teammates are relying on you. The way you battle and overcome those days is what defines you. That's baseball. It messes with your mind.
What are the keys to your swing?
GS: You've got to sustain your legs. Your lower half is the anchor, what you turn on, and the upper body is quickness and coordination. You've got to get your back leg, butt, thighs and feet to lock in there. The upper body is all hand-eye -- that's where you get the quickness.
Have you ever struggled with body image?
GS: I think all of us have a set image of how we want to look. Sometimes I'll be like, "I don't look as strong as I should" or "You've got to work on this and get it looking better." So yeah, I'm hard on myself. Especially living in two beach cities (LA in the offseason), I'm always somewhere with my shirt off.
What's the worst thing you've been through mentally?
GS: I got called up to Double-A a month and a half into the year and then hit .231 and was just getting blown up, fast-breaking all the time, striking out more than usual. I'd probably been through worse, but my mental state got to me. I started to think, "Am I good enough to be here?" "Am I going to make it?" You forget that it's a long process and a long season, and that going through this is only going to make you stronger for the big stage. It was a learning experience for me and something I don't forget.
What are your proudest freak baseball moments?
GS: I put a dent in a home run ball in spring training. I flattened one side of it. That's true. I didn't believe it at first; I thought it had hit cement. The longest ball I ever hit in a game was in Double-A in Montgomery, Ala. There was a big scoreboard in left center field, 400 feet away and about 100 feet up. I hit it over that and it sure as heck wasn't on its way down.
People look at me crazy when I hit sometimes. To me, it's relatively normal. But it's cool to be able to do something that only a handful of people can do. And I love doing it.