|The Prince of Milwaukee seeks own identity: 'laid-back dude,' All-Star|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 28 June 2007 09:28|
The subject raises questions of a broken family relationship the Milwaukee Brewers slugger would rather not talk about. And besides, Prince Fielder says with a twinge of disdain, the matter is clear.
``I think we're just two different players,'' he said. ``One, I think I'm going to be much better than him. And two, there's no real comparisons because I just try to be best in all aspects of my game.''
And then Fielder hints at the reason he is working to become known for more than just his big, bad bat. And that gets back to his father, who played much of his career as a designated hitter.
``I just never want to settle to just be a DH,'' Fielder said.
At 23 and in only his second full season in the majors, Fielder leads the National League in home runs (27), RBIs (62) and slugging percentage (.622). When the All-Star lineups are announced Sunday, Fielder most likely will become the first Brewer voted in by the fans as a starter in 19 years.
Fielder insists he considers such recognition ``a bonus,'' and what he really cares about is winning. And for the first time in a long time the Brewers are doing exactly that. Milwaukee holds a 7 1/2-game lead over the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central entering a weekend series at Wrigley Field.
But Fielder does see the All-Star voting as a sign that he is on his way to establishing his own identity instead of being defined by his estranged father.
``I think I've already done that now,'' Fielder said. ``So now I'm just happy I've done that, and I'll just keep playing baseball.''
Prince is guarded about the reasons behind the split with his father. According to a 2004 story by The Detroit News, Cecil Fielder frittered away his baseball earnings through gambling and bad business decisions.
Cecil has been more outspoken about his fractured relationship with his son. At a Toronto Blue Jays alumni event last week, Cecil said his son should show him more respect.
``I just don't think my son knows how to let it go,'' Cecil Fielder said. ``I don't think he's grown up yet. Until he can move on and talk to me like he's my son, we don't need to talk.''
But Prince, who is married with two kids of his own, seems intent on moving on without his father.
And he moves pretty fast for a big guy.
In the second inning of the Brewers' game against Houston on Wednesday, the 6-foot, 262-pound Fielder knocked a lazy blooper into left field and started chugging down the baseline, legging out a double and mowing down infielder Mark Loretta as he slid hard into second base.
In the 11th inning of the same game, Fielder thundered down the first-base line to catch a popped-up bunt from Craig Biggio.
``I think everybody thought he was just going to be a young player that hit for a lot of power, but he's much better than that,'' Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. ``He takes a lot of pride in his defense. You see how he runs the bases - he runs the bases hard. He has a lot of confidence in hitting the ball the other way, he works at that. So he wants to be the complete player and have a long career.''
Melvin says Fielder's early success makes him worthy of comparisons well beyond his father.
``I say Prince is a player that comes along every so often, the way that Ken Griffey Jr. did, the way an A-Rod did,'' Melvin said. ``They were 20, 21 years of age. Prince is 23, but people say we could have had Prince here when he was 21 and he would have hit.''
And if he keeps it up, Fielder could earn MVP consideration.
``You could have that argument, I'm sure,'' Melvin said.
Brewers center fielder Bill Hall certainly would.
``He's got MVP numbers right now at a time where the team needed him to be doing what he's been doing, kind of carrying us early in the season, him and J.J. (Hardy),'' Hall said. ``We wouldn't be where we are right now without him.''
But Fielder isn't about to let such praise go to his head.
``If I did that, I don't think I'd have success,'' Fielder said. ``I'd feel too big, too good about myself. I don't know. I don't put myself in any category - just the 'play hard' category.''
Fielder got to the big leagues by staying humble and laughing a lot, and intends to stay that way.
``I'm just a laid-back dude, just a normal guy who gets to play baseball,'' Fielder said. ``I've never been into the (idea that) when you have success you change. I never liked that. I'm the same guy - laughing, joking around, yelling at people in the clubhouse and stuff. That's how I've always been, that's how I'm going to keep being.''
In a clubhouse filled with players who bonded as they came up through Milwaukee's minor league system, teammates look to Fielder for comic relief.
``Whenever you hear people laughing, you always come around and he's kind of in the middle of it,'' Brewers manager Ned Yost said.
Yost scoffed when asked whether a young player such as Fielder might be nervous the first time he walked into a clubhouse filled with All-Stars.
``Come on,'' Yost said. ``They'll flock around him, just like they do in this clubhouse.''
And why do people flock to Fielder?
``He's not fake,'' Yost said. ``He's not a hot dog - there's not the smallest little bit of a hot dog bone in him. He's real. He's a real baseball player.''