The Ring of Power could only be destroyed by returning it to whence it came, in the fiery Cracks of Doom of the great volcano Orodruin in the land of Mordor. Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee had to travel all across Middle-Earth to accomplish this, traveling a great distance and encountering many perilous places and foes. Yet as is often the case, traveling a great distance resulted in accomplishing a great thing. Frodo and Sam rid the world of the Dark Lord Sauron. Luke Skywalker traveled to what was left of Alderaan and became a galactic hero. I am a massive dweeb.
Marcell Ozuna sent a baseball on a grand and glorious journey last night. He did not destroy it to eliminate a great evil, depending on how you feel about the Rays, but he did launch the ball into a far-flung flight. He sent a baseball into a part of Tropicana Field that was hitherto unexplored, and exploration of decrepit ruins like the Trop often yields important archeological information. The ball was like a sports version of the Cassini probe, a lonely adventurer into parts unknown.
There are so many beautiful things happening here. First and foremost, we’re reminded that the Rays were a Wild Card team in 2011.
We live to see balls hit like this. It’s the platonic ideal of a Tropicana Field home run. It’s about as good a home run as you can ask for. StatCast claims it went a bit more than 460 feet, but almost nobody can remember seeing a home run of this monstrous size at the Trop before. Ozuna used the 2011 Wild Card banner for target practice. The blast may very well have gone off the back wall of the stadium had the banner not been there.
It’s a perfect encapsulation of the success Ozuna is enjoying this year. He’s slugging .570 and has a 141 wRC+. Ozuna’s been the best player on the Marlins and is looking like a lock to make his second straight All-Star team. He’s going to play in front of the home crowd in Miami.
Look at how smooth and easy Ozuna’s swing is and how easily he sends a ball to the deepest recesses of the Trop. Sending a baseball that far isn’t supposed to be easy, regardless of how fat a meatball is thrown over the plate for you. That’s some Chris Davis/Robinson Cano level ease, and it doesn’t quite seem all that fair. How cool is that? Blake Snell looked none too pleased with himself, though.
He knew it was gone off the bat, and he probably knew just how far it was going to go. It looked and probably felt a lot longer than the 468 feet StatCast pegged the blast for. It’s been a rough year for him, too. 11.4% of the fly balls he’s allowed have gone for home runs, a huge spike from last year. That’s probably a fluke. The result of the 85 mph changeup that didn’t change, left in Ozuna’s wheelhouse, wasn’t. Ozuna was given a batting practice fastball, and like most great power hitters do during BP, he put on a show.
Sluggers are the great pathfinders of baseball. They send balls to places in stadiums that we had no clue could be reached. Whether it’s Hunter Renfroe finding the top of the Western Metal Supply Company, Aaron Judge breaking a TV, or Ozuna launching an attack on a banner, home runs offer chances for us to be amazed. How many places in your favorite stadium are considered unreachable? Until yesterday, it boggled the mind to even think of someone reaching the banners at Tropicana Field. The great power surge in today’s game is a chance for exploration, a score of fantastic voyages just waiting to happen.
Men like Ozuna can hit the ball there and back again. They can blaze trails to far-flung expanses with one swing of the bat. We should be so lucky to see such wonders.
Nick is a columnist at FanGraphs, and has written previously for Baseball Prospectus and Beyond the Box Score. Yes, he hates your favorite team, just like Joe Buck. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets, and can contact him at stellinin1 at gmail.