Ode to a Prince
It only seemed like yesterday when an ebullient Prince bowled us over. Baseball was fun to him and he played it with joy in his heart.
Prince Fielder never wanted to leave the lineup. From 2006-2013 he missed just 13 games. Coming back from an injury-wracked 2014, he only sat out four in 2015.
You know that if he missed time, he was definitely hurt.
This is why his retirement is shocking and sad. Sadder than any retirement in some time, because he seemed so at home on the baseball field.
Fielder famously became a vegan in order to improve his body and conditioning. He was large, and remained so but he didn’t want to become just a one-dimensional slugger. He also knew how to play the game. At his best, he could hit for average, took walks, and even was a leader in hit-by-pitches. All that plus his power made him a well-rounded offensive player – as well rounded as a 275-pound human being could be.
Yes, he signed a big contract for a boatload of money. Yes, his contract will be held up as a reason that you should be wary of giving out contracts longer than four or five years. That doesn’t mean he was a slacker or goldbricker.
Neck and back injuries are the worst. They are painful and many times they don’t respond to treatment or surgery as quickly or as completely as one would want.Usually, they’re a sign from your body to stop doing what you were doing. Re-injuring a neck or back usually means big trouble, and not just athletically.
All sports wreak havoc on the human body. It’s rare that anyone gets through a college career, much less a professional career, without sprains, strains, pain or surgery.
Prince was going through a hellish 2016 season. His team had been soaring, and he was holding them back. His injuries meant he couldn’t drive the ball, his timing was off, and he was exerting even more effort and pressure to try to get back on track.
Texas may well make it to the World Series again, but it will be without Fielder. Prince went to five post-seasons in his 10 full seasons and this team could be the best one he was part of. Hopefully, he can celebrate with his teammates during their post-season experience.
The numbers forever etched in stone are 319 home runs, a .506 slugging percentage, an OPS+ of 134, and a offensive WAR of 33.7. He won three Silver Sluggers, drew MVP votes in six seasons, and made six All-Star teams.
He’s not going to make the Hall of Fame. He is going to live a full life now – with his family and a quality of life that will be improved.
We will miss Prince. Baseball loses some of its joy without him around.