Fielder, Prince Semien

views updated

Prince Semien Fielder


Professional baseball player

The career of the young Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder was one of the most compelling stories in Major League Baseball in 2007. Fielder exploded into national fame as one of baseball's hot young stars that year, becoming the youngest player ever to hit fifty home runs in a season. But it was not just Fielder's exploits on the field that kept fans following his story. Fielder, the son of 1990s power hitter Cecil Fielder, grew up in a baseball family and learned the game from his father—but, just on the eve of Prince Fielder's emergence as a star, the two had a nasty and public falling-out. At times, it almost seemed as if the father-son psychodrama was fueling Fielder's intense competitive drive.

Prince Fielder was born on May 9, 1984, in Ontario, California, but grew up mostly in Melbourne, Florida. He had a slugger's build from the beginning, weighing nearly fifty pounds at the age of one. As a kid he would sometimes eat an entire package of raw hot dogs—and then sit down to his usual meal. By his sophomore year at Melbourne's Eau Gallie High School he tipped the scales at three hundred pounds, but then, getting serious about his game, he dropped fifty pounds and finally settled in at a playing weight of about 270. It was clear that he was going to follow his father into the game of baseball: Sometimes in the summer he would spend time with his father's team, the Detroit Tigers. Well liked by the Tigers squad, he was allowed to take the field for batting practice, and one time, when he was twelve, he hit a home run into Tiger Stadium's lower deck.

As a high school senior, Fielder notched a .524 batting average with ten home runs and forty-one runs batted in (RBIs). As he approached graduation in 2002, scouts from various teams hovered over Eau Gallie games. One was Tom McNamara of the Brewers, who was still concerned about Fielder's weight. He asked Fielder to step on a scale. Fielder's answer was to invite McNamara to attend one of his gym workouts. "I sat there amazed by his work ethic," McNamara told Albert Chen of Sports Illustrated in 2007. "He really showed his hunger to succeed." Fielder was picked by the Brewers in the first round (he was the seventh pick) of the 2002 draft. In his first game as a professional, with the Ogden (Utah) Raptors of the Pioneer Rookie League, Fielder hit a grand-slam home run. After hitting .390 in his first forty-one games he moved up to the Beloit (Wisconsin) Snappers, the Class A squad in the Brewers' farm system.

Up to that point, Fielder had been very much the protégé of his famous and popular father. Cecil Fielder had taught his son the game, talked up his skills to reporters, and acted as his agent during his first contract negotiations with the Brewers. But the father-son relationship took a big hit when a process server cornered Prince as he came off the field in Beloit and served him with papers that named his father as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by a Detroit-area trucking firm, alleging default on a lease agreement. Cecil Fielder, it soon became clear, was facing severe financial problems compounded by gambling losses—he had, according to court papers cited by Chen, lost more than $580,000 during one disastrous binge in Atlantic City in 1999. Cecil Fielder and Prince's mother, Stacey, divorced acrimoniously in 2004.

These events affected Prince's play on the diamond—positively. "He was a wreck," his friend Tony Gwynn Jr., another son of a baseball star, told Chen. "He could easily have gone the other way, but somehow he channeled all those emotions positively into baseball. You should have seen him in the weight room—he was an animal." Fielder advanced through the Brewers' farm system, playing for the AA-level Huntsville Stars in 2004 and moving up to the AAA Nashville Sounds in 2005. He made his debut with the Brewers on June 13 that year but was sent back to Nashville for further seasoning. With twenty-eight home runs by August of 2005, he was called up to the Brewers for the remainder of the 2005 season. The pressure was on, because local favorite Lyle Overbay was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays to make room for Fielder at first base.

Fielder was polite to reporters, cool in the face of pressure, and a success on the field from the start. In 2006 he emerged as one of baseball's most potent young stars, with twenty-eight home runs and eighty-one RBIs, both records for a Brewers rookie. Named to the Topps Rookie All-Star Team, Fielder was voted the Brewers' outstanding prospect by local sportswriters. He had gotten married in 2005, and he and his wife, Chanel, had two sons, Jaden and Haven. There was an intensity in Fielder's play that differed from the style of his relaxed slugger father, and players in his way on the base paths were sometimes leveled.

In tandem with these accomplishments, Fielder's relationship with his father deteriorated further. The two eventually stopped speaking altogether as Prince Fielder sided with his mother in legal proceedings against his father. In 2006 he told George Dohrmann of Sports Illustrated merely that "we're not that close," but the following year resentment boiled over in Fielder's statements to the press. "A lot of people said [that his father's influence was] the only reason I got drafted," Fielder told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "That's what drives me. People said I was too big and all this, and the only reason I got drafted was because of the name… . One day I want people to mention my name and not have to mention his." In response to comments from Cecil Fielder to the effect that he had been responsible for his son's becoming a first-round draft pick, Prince responded, "You've got to look at who's saying it. Let's be honest. He's not really the brightest guy." A particular bone of contention was the sum of $200,000 that Cecil Fielder took in return, as he saw it, for representing his son in initial negotiations with the Brewers.

Sportswriters wished in print for an eventual reconciliation, but in the meantime Prince Fielder continued to focus on the baseball diamond. His 2007 statistics raised him from promising rookie to star as he became the youngest player in baseball history to hit fifty home runs. Fans voted him onto the National League All-Star team, only behind superstar Ken Griffey Jr., and he bested Griffey in the poll for the Hank Aaron Award (determined by voting by broadcasters and fans), given each year to a top offensive player in each major league. He was only the fifth player in Brewers history to score more than one hundred home runs and one hundred RBIs in a single season. As the 2008 season ramped up—at which time Fielder became a vegetarian—two potentially intertwined sports stories, one athletic and one familial, continued to unfold.

At a Glance …

Born Prince Semien Fielder on May 9, 1984, in Ontario, CA; son of Cecil (a baseball player) and Stacey Fielder; married Chanel, 2005; children: Jaden, Haven.

Career: Baseball first baseman; drafted by Milwaukee Brewers, 2002; played in minor leagues for Ogden Raptors, 2002, Beloit Snappers, 2002-03, Huntsville Stars, 2004, and Nashville Sounds, 2005; major league debut with Milwaukee Brewers, 2005—.

Awards: Hank Aaron Award, 2007, for league top offensive player.

Addresses: Team office—Milwaukee Brewers, One Brewers Way, Milwaukee, WI 53214-3655.



Boys' Life, April 2004, p. 12.

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, September 25, 2007.

Sports Illustrated, July 15, 2002, p. 92; August 7, 2006, p. 34; May 28, 2007, p. 34; March 3, 2008, p. 19.

USA Today, March 13, 2006, p. 5C.


Hamrahi, Joe, "Prince Charming: Interview with Milwaukee's Prince Fielder," Baseball Digest Daily, June 27, 2006, (accessed March 12, 2008).

McCalvy, Adam, "Fielder Adds Aaron Award to '07 Honors," Milwaukee Brewers, October 28, 2007, (accessed March 12, 2008).

"Player File: Prince Fielder," Major League Baseball, (accessed March 12, 2008).

Sacks, Glenn, "It's Time for Prince Fielder to Forgive Cecil Fielder, His Father," American Chronicle, July 10, 2007, (accessed March 12, 2008).

—James M. Manheim