By Steven Wine
JUPITER, Fla. — His mom calls him Cruz.
Teammates call him Bigfoot.
Most baseball fans know him as Mike Stanton, precocious slugger for the Miami Marlins, but his first name is actually Giancarlo.
“The man of a million names,” said the former Notre Dame High of Sherman Oaks standout.
He likes them all, but with spring training cranking up and Stanton touted as a future home-run champion, he said today he prefers Giancarlo.
For the first time, that’s the way he’s identified on the Marlins’ roster. That’s also the name on his paycheck and above his locker. That’s what team owner Jeffrey Loria calls him.
But Stanton’s dad calls him Mike, and many of his relatives call him Mikey.
“I respond to many names,” he said. “It’s all good.”
The Marlins expect to see his surname in a lot of headlines this year. He has 56 career home runs, and in the past 40 years only Ken Griffey Jr. (60) and Alex Rodriguez (56) have hit at least that many before their 22nd birthday. Stanton turned 22 in November.
“This kid has potential that’s unbelievable,” new manager Ozzie Guillen said.
The Marlins’ cleanup hitter and right fielder is thickly built at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds — thus the nickname Bigfoot, which dates to his year at Single-A Greensboro. In two major-league seasons he has developed a reputation for mammoth homers, and his batting-practice sessions tend to draw a large audience of teammates and opposing players.
Guillen said he’s not interested in tape-measure homers.
“I told Stanton, ‘I hear you hit balls 700 feet. Don’t give me 700 feet. Just give me 40 that barely make the wall,’” Guillen said.
Stanton said he doesn’t care how far his homers travel. Last season he hit 34 while batting .262 with 87 RBIs.
This year he’ll play in a new ballpark for a team with a much higher profile — and a new name. So the timing of a name change for Stanton makes sense.
His full name is a sonorous mouthful: Giancarlo Cruz Michael Stanton. He’s not Italian, and Giancarlo isn’t a family name — his parents just liked it.
In school, the California native went by Giancarlo (pronounced JEE’-ahn-cahr-loh) until the fifth grade.
“No one could pronounce it right,” he said. “Everyone thought it was two words. Gene-carlo, Juan-carlo, Gionne-carlo. You have seven periods in school, so seven times a day: ‘No, that’s not the name.’”
So he switched to Mike.
“It was just easier,” he said. “If you can’t pronounce that, then there’s something wrong with you.”
Many friends still call him Giancarlo, however. He uses that name for his legal signature, while on baseball paraphernalia he signs “Mike Stanton.”
But he notes that his scrawl is such that his “M” looks a lot like a “G.” And teammates are starting to call him Giancarlo more often.
“I told him he needs to have longer hair,” catcher John Buck said. “When I think of Giancarlo, I think of someone with long, flowing hair, like Fabio. But if he keeps hitting homers, I’ll him whatever he wants me to call him.”