Fielder Produces Tape-Measure Home Runs

By  //  April 3, 2012



BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA   Prince Fielder hopes to continue his power show as he moves from the National League to the American League for the 2012 season.

Fielder, a former Eau Gallie High and Florida Air Academy baseball standout, has hit 230 home runs since making his debut with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005 and is a possible nominee for enshrinement in the Space Coast Spots hall of Fame in May.

The 5-foot-11, 285-pound first baseman signed a nine-year, $214 million contract with the Detroit Tigers in the off-season.

The Tigers are the same team that Fielder grew up watching when his father, Prince Fielder, was a slugging first baseman for the squad at the old Tiger Stadium.

The elder Fielder hit 51 home runs for the Tigers in 1990. In 2007, the younger Fielder hit 50 home runs to set a Milwaukee Brewers franchise record.

The two are the first father-son combination to each hit 50 or more home runs in a season. At 23, Prince Fielder also became the youngest player to hit 50 home runs in a season.

During his senior year at Eau Gallie High School in 2002, Prince Fielder compiled a .524 batting average with 10 home runs, 41 RBI and 47 runs scored. He was named the All-Space Coast Player of the Year.

It was his lone season for the Commodores after three seasons at Florida Air Academy.

That June, after the completion of the season, Fielder was taken with the seventh overall pick of the first round by the Brewers in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.

In two full seasons in the minor leagues and parts of two other seasons, Fielder hit .297 with 91 home runs and 327 RBI.

Fielder made his major league debut in 2005, joining the Brewers during interleague play in June as a designated hitter. He later joined the team for good in August. He hit two home runs and drove in 10 runs in 59 at-bats for a .288 batting average.

In the offseason, Milwaukee traded starting first baseman Lyle Overbay to create a starting spot for the young phenom. Fielder responded by hitting .271 with 28 home runs and 81 RBI. He was seventh in voting for the National League Rookie of the Year.

Fielder had a breakout year the following season in 2007 when he hit 50 home runs and drove in 119 runs to win the Silver Slugger Award as the top run-producing first baseman. He also hit .288 and scored 109 runs. Fielder also won the National League’s Hank Aaron Award.

The Brewers and Fielder failed to reach terms for a long-term contract after the prodigious season, and Fielder was forced to sign a one-year deal for $670,000.

The bitterness about that perceived slight might have paved the way for Fielder’s departure to the Tigers when he eventually became eligible for free agency.

Fielder posted another solid season in 2008 when he hit 34 home runs, drove in 102 runs and scored 86 runs en route to a .276 batting average. Milwaukee earned the National League’s wild-card berth on the final day of the season.

It was the franchise’s first playoff berth as a National League squad. Fielder hit the lone home run for the Brewers in a four-game loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in the series.

The Brewers and Fielder avoided arbitration in the offseason, agreeing on a two-year contract for $18 million.

During the 2009 season, Fielder defeated Nelson Cruz 6-5 in the final round to win the Home Run Derby as part of the All-Star Game festivities. He hit 17 home runs in the first two rounds and eliminated Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard to earn a berth in the final. One of his home runs in the Derby traveled an estimated 503 feet.

In 2009, Fielder hit 46 home runs and led the league with 141 RBI. Fielder also hit .299 and scored 103 runs.

Although he slumped somewhat in 2010 with a .261 batting average, Fielder did lead the National League with 114 walks. He added 32 home runs, 83 RBI and scored 94 runs. In the offseason, he signed a one-year contract for $15.5 million.

Fielder helped the Brewers win their first National League Central Division title in 2011 with his second Silver Slugger Award. He hit .299 with 38 home runs, 120 RBI and 95 runs scored. Fielder also walked 107 times. He finished third in the National League Most Valuable Player Award voting behind teammate Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In the All-Star Game, Fielder hit a three-run homer to left-center field in the fourth inning to help the National League defeat the American League 5-1 in the 82nd annual summer classic.

Fielder hit .278 in 18 at-bats as the Brewers defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-2 in the 2011 National League Division Series. Fielder had two home runs in the National League Championship Series, which the St. Louis Cardinals won 4-2.

The Detroit Tigers entered the offseason bidding for Fielder when designated hitter Victor Martinez sustained a torn knee ligament. The Tigers hope first baseman Miguel Cabrera can move back to his original position at third base. This would allow Fielder to play first base and, if Martinez can recover before the end of the season, he would move back to his designated hitter role. If not, Cabrera and Fielder would alternate between first base and designated hitter.

Fielder will turn 28 on May 9.