Miami Marlins slugging star Giancarlo Stanton, a 2007 graduate of Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, was named Most Valuable Player in the National League Nov. 16, the second time a Knights’ alum has won a major post-season award.
Stanton, who hit 59 home runs this season, was preceded by Jack McDowell, Notre Dame class of 1984, who won the 1993 American League Cy Young Award as the league’s top pitcher while playing for the Chicago White Sox.
The news of Stanton’s award was quickly and joyfully embraced by the Notre Dame High School community, as reflected in a letter to Stanton from Brett Lowart, school president, posted on the school’s website.
“On behalf of the entire Notre Dame High School community, congratulations on being named the 2017 National League Most Valuable Player,” Lowart wrote. “You have worked so hard for this and deserve it! We are so proud of you!”
Lowart praised Stanton for his accomplishments on the baseball diamond, but especially for how he handles his fame.
“We are proud that you carry our Holy Cross values with you, that you are humble and respectful, that you value family and faith,” said Lowart. “We love it when you return to your alma mater and spend time with our team. We are grateful for the Nike equipment you contribute that our ND players love to sport. You sign every autograph. You are a giving and respectful person. Giancarlo, the person, is way better than Giancarlo, the player, and we are very proud of that!”
Born Nov. 8, 1989, in Panorama City, Giancarlo Cruz-Michael Stanton enjoyed a stellar career at Notre Dame, in which (known then as “Mike”) he also played basketball and football, and was drafted in the second round by the Marlins in 2007. He made his major league debut at age 20 on June 8, 2010, in Philadelphia, and in his first at-bat singled against the Phillies’ Kyle Kendrick, finishing the game with three singles in five at-bats with two runs scored.
His first major league home run was a grand slam on June 18, in the first inning against Tampa’s Matt Garza in a 7-4 Marlins’ win at Sun Life Stadium. Three weeks later, playing his first three-game series at Dodger Stadium (where he had watched many Dodger games growing up), Stanton homered against the Dodgers’ Vicente Padilla (on July 6) and Hiroki Kuroda (on July 7).
He finished his rookie season with 22 home runs, 59 runs batted in and firmly established as a force with which to be reckoned. Since then, the 6-foot-6-inch Stanton has become known not simply for the quantity but the length of his home runs, regularly belting prodigious “no doubt” blasts far beyond outfield fences, and winning the 2016 Home Run Derby in San Diego.
Stanton’s career home run total — 267 — is 15th among active players and 191st all-time. He led the NL with 37 home runs in 2014, despite missing the last three weeks of the season after being hit in the face with a pitch, and was second in that year’s NL MVP voting to the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.
This season, Stanton led the majors with 59 home runs (the most since Barry Bonds’ MLB record of 73 in 2001), 132 RBIs and a .631 slugging percentage. He was Player of the Month in August, in which he hit 18 home runs, and he also received the NL’s Hank Aaron Award, an NL Silver Slugger Award (his second), the NL Players Choice Award for Outstanding Player and, as a strong-armed right-fielder, was an NL Gold Glove Award finalist.
The 2017 MVP vote was the fourth-closest in history, with Stanton edging Cincinnati’s Joey Votto, 302 points to 300. Each received 10 first-place votes in the Baseball Writers Association of America voting.
Interviewed by MLB Network after his win, Stanton reflected on his journey.
“You remember the thoughts you had as a kid,” he said, “and when times were good and bad as a pro and in the minors and everything building up, you just finally give thanks to that. I’ll have more time to think about everything that has gone on in the seasons over the years, and look forward to a new journey, too.”