Sports can be cruel.
Enter, or should we say exit, Prince Fielder.
On Wednesday, in an emotional and heart-wrenching press conference, Fielder was forced to retire from Major League Baseball.
Fielder, just 32, is done. He is coming off two neck surgeries, having several vertebrae fused together in his neck. Fielder, wearing a neck brace, will never be medically cleared to play again. Hence, the slugger had to give up his 12-year career and Texas Rangers uniform.
“I thought I was gonna cry in the car,” said Fielder in a tear-filled press conference with his two sons and his agent at Globe Life Ballpark.
Prince’s sons – Jadyen and Haven – could barely stand it, both with their heads down. They were definitely disappointed, in near tears themselves. It was hard to watch.
For some baseball fans, it will be sad that they will no longer be able to see Fielder at the plate.
His baseball career was a good one. Fielder, a six-time All-Star, played for the Milwaukee Brewers, Detroit Tigers and the Rangers. He made the playoffs with all three teams.
Without question, Fielder – who played first base and was a DH – was a force in the middle of the lineup with all three. At one point in his career, he batted behind three straight MVPs. Ryan Braun in Milwaukee and Miguel Cabrera two straight seasons in Motown. Fielder’s career numbers are impressive: .283 batting average, 319 home runs and 1,028 RBI.
Health, not opposing pitchers, forced it to all end way premature.
“It’s been a struggle this year,” said Fielder, who doesn’t go away empty handed. He is still owed $24 million a season through 2020.
That helps, but it wasn’t Prince’s motivation. He loved baseball. It was a part of his makeup, his fabric.
Fielder added, “I’m going to really miss being around those guys. To not be able to play is going to be tough.”
This closes the chapter on one of the great love affairs of a sport and a father and son.
Fielder is the son of former slugger Cecil Fielder, who ironically also finished his big league career with 319 homer – just like his son.
Cecil was at the press conference. It had to be painful. After all, Cecil got the ball rolling on his son’s start to the American pastime.
Yet, it wasn’t long ago that their relationship was strained. Once inseparable, the pair barely talked for a long stretch.
And it was sad.
Long before Prince was a monster home run-hitting machine for the Tigers and before he inked that humongous $214-million deal in Detroit, you would not have been able to imagine that Prince and his famous home-run slugging dad, Cecil, would EVER be estranged.
Twenty years ago in Detroit, Cecil was the star of the town, hitting balls out of the old Tiger Stadium. He was the bigger-the-life star of baseball in the early 90s. At one point, Cecil signed the biggest contract in the sport.
All the way through Cecil’s ride of fame and fortune, Prince was right there. They were two peas in a pod, road dogs, buddies.
If there was Cecil, there was Prince. At the ballpark, in the restaurants — even in Cecil’s national McDonald’s TV commercial.
Cecil even broke some of the late, great Sparky Anderson’s rules concerning kids in the clubhouse and at the ballpark because he wanted Prince to walk the dirt and smell the grass of the big leagues. It enabled Prince to take batting practice at Tiger Stadium. At 13, Prince was leaving the yard off of BP fastballs.
For sure, no one I ever saw loved his son more than Cecil. It’s not from hearsay. I was a columnist at the Detroit Free Press back then and spent a lot of time with Cecil. Often, just the three of us would have lunch or dinner together.
But a few years ago, Prince and Cecil buried their differences. They were reunited, a team again.
And given the current circumstances for Prince, it’s a great thing. His love has been taken from him. Prince will need love and support to get through the next stage of his life.
Enter Cecil, his dad. That will help Prince’s cruel moment in sports.