Prince Fielder announced last week that he has played his last game. The press conference was hard to watch, as the man who played with the passion of a kid told the world that he would never be medically cleared to play. He did not officially retire, but he is not going to play again.
Fielder played a pivotal role in getting the Brewers to their first playoff appearance in 26 years, and their first division title just three years later. He came to the ballpark with his big smile every day, and it was contagious. Fielder wore his heart on his sleeve and always put everything he had into every game. He would not tolerate any less from any of his teammates, which resulted in a couple of dugout incidents.
The Brewers selected Fielder with the 7th overall pick in the 2002 draft. The 18-year-old Fielder went right to work and earned a promotion from Rookie League Ogden to Single-A Beloit in 2002. He spent time at Beloit in 2003, AA Huntsville in 2004, and AAA Nashville in 2005 before getting his first call up to the big league club in June, 2005. Fielder appeared in 13 games, hitting .321 with 1 home run and 6 RBI before getting sent back down to Nashville. He came up for good in August, though he rode the bench for the rest of the season.
Fielder would not ride the bench anymore, as he would miss just 13 games over the next 6 seasons with the Brewers. He is all over the Brewer leader boards, both for single season marks and career marks. He has the top 2 home run seasons, with 50 in 2007 and 46 in 2009, and the most RBI in a season with 141 in 2009. Fielder owns the only 2 season slugging percentages over .600, .618 in 2007 and .602 in 2009.
As for the career marks, he has the third most home runs in Brewer history with 230, the third most walks with 533, the second highest slugging percentage at .540, and the highest OPS with .929. Fielder made this much of an impact playing just over 6 seasons in Milwaukee.
Fielder provided many memorable moments for Brewer fans. His booming home runs were a marvel to watch and he had plenty of them. Here are my 3 favorite Fielder home runs.
Walk-Off Knockdown Celebration
Fielder hit a walk-off home run on September 6, 2009 against the Giants, and the celebration was one for the ages.
Fielder’s Grand Slam
Fielder only hit one grand slam in his career, but it was a big one. On June 15, 2009, he drove the ball to deep right-center field in the 8th inning to put the Brewers up 13-12 over the Indians. The Brewers would score one more in the inning and win the game 14-12.
The Big Man Can Run
My favorite Fielder home run was not one of his moon shots. In fact, it did not leave the park. It was one of his inside-the-ballpark home runs (yes, he did have two of them). This one came on June 17, 2007, and he had to hustle the whole way. I was almost afraid he would run right through the dugout.
Thank You Prince
Fielder played a huge role in getting the Brewers to the playoffs twice in his short tenure in Milwaukee. He earned 3 All-Star selections and 2 Silver Sluggers. Fielder finished in the top 4 in the MVP voting 3 times, including 2011 when teammate Ryan Braun won it.
Fielder will always be loved in Milwaukee. His hard work and love of the game endeared him to the city, which made his press conference so tough to watch.
I, for one, will always remember his smile and the joy he brought to the game.