ROB PARKER: Detroit was wrong about Prince Fielder, he was forced to retire

Posted at 11:54 AM, Aug 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-11 11:54:33-04

Detroit sports fans usually get it right. They know what they are watching. They give high praise to the worthy. They trash those that don't measure up - even some wearing a home team uniform.

But in the case of Prince Fielder, they blew it.

That's right, Detroit. You were wrong about 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.

It wasn't long ago fans in Motown were saying good riddance to Fielder. In the 2013 American League Championship Series, Fielder was terrible, missing in action.

In six games against the Boston Red Sox, Fielder had no HRs or RBI and batted a paltry .182.
The Tigers, who were favorite to win the World Series that year, lost in six games. Worse, Fielder was flip in a postgame interview.

It was a mistake. He came off like he didn't care. It stung fans that night who were crushed that their team wasn't going to win the World Series for the first time since 1984.

Fielder was immediately cast as public enemy No. 1. Fans turned on him despite the fact he made the All-Star team in both of his first two seasons in Detroit. Fans were even more thrilled when the Tigers traded him to Texas that offseason basically in exchange for Ian Kinsler.

Fans have dogged Fielder since. Peeps let one bad moment define him and it was totally wrong.

Not only does Fielder love the game of baseball, he was a very good player.

Fielder, a six-time All-Star, played for the Milwaukee Brewers, 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. Baseball 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.

More than 20 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.

Make no mistake about it. Prince Fielder was one of us. Detroit fans were wrong to cast him anything else.