CINCINNATI – Prince Fielder is back in the spotlight. He was gone for a minute, but now he’s returned in better health, with a better physique and with a bat as potent as it once was.
Fielder’s awesome home run swing was front and center at MLB’s Home Run Derby on Monday night at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.
Fielder smashed 13 homers in his first go-around against Cincinnati’s Todd Frazier. But it was going to be Frazier’s night. The hometown hero beat Fielder with 14 bombs on his first swing in “bonus time” to advance to the next round.
Frazier would go on to win the Derby in dramatic fashion against the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Joc Pederson. Cincinnati fans, of course, loved it.
“Had a lot of fun and that’s what’s it all about,” Fielder told the media after the game. “I like doing this.”
And why not? Fielder has a classic HR swing and fans don’t leave their seats when he’s at the plate.
Fielder was trying to accomplish a feat done only once in this competition, winning the event for a third time. That honor belongs to the great Ken Griffey Jr.
Nonetheless, Fielder, the lone Texas Rangers representative at the mid-summer classic, is an All-Star again. It’s his fourth selection in the last five seasons, his sixth trip in his 11-year career.
Many weren’t sure it would happen again, or at least this soon, after Fielder’s 2014 season was derailed. A neck injury – and surgery – limited him to just 42 games. He batted .247 with three homers and 16 RBI.
But Fielder is healthy and so is his bat. The Rangers’ designated hitter is batting .339 with 14 HR and 54 RBI.
“It’s very special to have Prince here,” Los Angeles Angels’ first baseman Albert Pujols said. “I know that… how it sucks to be hurt. I know what he went through is worse than anything I’ve gone through in my career. To see him back, healthy and productive, is great. I’m just excited to be on the same field with him.”
Indeed, Fielder has won the respect of his peers. Fielder won the players’ vote over Yankees Alex Rodriguez for the All-Star DH spot backup to fan choice Nelson Cruz from the Seattle Mariners.
“That means a lot,” Fielder told the media. “They appreciate the way I play and I appreciate them for doing that. I’m going to try to keep doing that.”
Some fans, especially in Detroit haven’t been as forgiving to Fielder.
The slugger was shown the door after a terrible, unproductive 2013 postseason. And Fielder didn’t help the situation at all with upset fans.
Instead of being bummed out after losing to the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series, Fielder was flip and almost unfazed.
Honestly, Fielder, in a postgame TV interview, came off like he didn’t even care. It was a bad look.
Tigers’ fans were outraged and he became public enemy No. 1 on sports-talk radio overnight. Soon after the Tigers traded him to Texas.
Washington Nationals stud starter Max Scherzer, Fielder’s teammate back then, supports Fielder.
“Things like that happen,” Scherzer said. “You can have a tough loss and you say things and they get misconstrued. The media grabs hold and it’s kind of unfair.
“You talk to the players here. I love Prince. You want him on your team. That’s why you can’t always be caught up with what’s said in the media.”
As a reporter who covered both Prince and his dad, Cecil Fielder, it’s great to see how both men included their sons.
In his day as MLB’s big slugger, Cecil brought Prince to everything. The two were attached at the hip.
Prince has two boys, Haven and Jadyn. Both were in full uniform and in Cincy with their dad for the HR show. Prince treats them like his dad treated him when Cecil was Detroit’s biggest star.
Prince’s worth is still missed in Motown. The combination of Fielder and Miguel Cabrera made for the most dangerous duo in baseball.
Let’s not forget that Cabrera won back-to-back AL MVPs with Fielder batting behind him in the cleanup spot. And Cabrera hit 40 or more home runs in each season, the only two times in his career.
Prince was supposed to be the missing piece, the bat to finally get Detroit its first World Series since 1984. When Fielder signed that whopping $214-million free-agent contract, fans celebrated in the city.
It’s great to see MLB in America celebrating its Prince again at the All-Star Game.