Chicks dig the long ball–or so I’ve heard–and nobody doles out tape-measure blasts quite as often as Giancarlo Stanton. You’re talking about a guy who hit a grand slam so hard it knocked out part of the scoreboard at Marlins Park.
Every time Stanton steps to the plate, there’s a chance you could be watching his next vaporization of opposing pitching, and that alone is worth tuning in for. The Marlins clearly agree that he’s something special–they gave him the most lucrative contract in sports history in the offseason, locking him up to a $325 million extension.
He’s among the more style-conscious players in today’s game as well, getting some shine from publications like GQ for his fashion sense. Even the protective guard he wears on his helmet–added after taking a vicious fastball to the face–had a capital G worked into the frame at his request. No opportunity to look fly should go to waste.
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The good news for Chris Sale opponents is that he hasn’t yet made the playoffs since debuting in 2010. The bad news for Sale’s opponents is that if and when he gets there, they’re in for a world of pain.
Sale stands out from a crowd of talented young pitchers thanks to his frame and delivery. The 6-6, 180 pound lefty mixes four pitches with an unorthodox, side-arm release, baffling hitters on his way to one of the best strikeout rates in the majors. Not only is Sale one of MLB’s best young arms, he’s also one of the most distinct.
Baseball is served well by an increased focus on long-term health, but a side effect of that is a lack of unique pitching styles in up-and-coming talent. Sale stands alone in this regard; you’ll never mistake him from anyone else on the mound, particularly after he strikes out 10-plus batters on your favorite team.
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Major League Baseball has given a couple significant farewell tours over the past few seasons, with players like Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter riding off into the sunset. As the last remaining stragglers from their generation fade off, the door is opening for a new crop of baseball stars to begin their own legacies.
Not all up-and-comers gain adulation from the fans in the same form or fashion. While Rivera quietly built a legacy of fear and respect through his dominance, others from this now-extinct era paired their on-field talent with gregarious personalities and unique style. As an example of this phenomenon, look no further than Ken Griffey Jr., whose beaming smile and monstrous home runs convinced a new generation of fans to turn their hats backwards.
In today’s day and age, resonating with the fans can come from a variety of places. As always, production and highlights reign supreme, but there are ways to reach the modern fan that didn’t exist in the past. Social media has given players an avenue to give their supporters a 24/7 window into their favorite athletes, providing “access” like never before. You can go behind the scenes for workouts, style, and everything else going on in an athlete’s life.
One thing links all these guys, however: talent. There’s nothing that can replace a spectacular diving catch, walk-off home runs or highlight throws from deep in the hole at short. Fans grow attached to fun personalities, but love for the sport is universal. Game recognize game. With that in mind, remember, the Next Generation of Baseball Superstars Is Already Here.
Follow Kyle on Twitter at @kyleneubeck
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