Baseball: The big-boned, big-hitter causing ripples in Detroit
Prince Fielder has signed the fourth-largest MLB contract. Now he has the bucks to match the girth
Friday 27 January 2012
What do you get for 19 stone 10lb and £136.9m? The new, big-hitting first baseman for the Detroit Tigers, Prince Fielder, that's what.
One of the most prolific home run-hitters in the game, and one of the heaviest, caused a few ripples this week by signing the fourth-largest contract in MLB history, a nine-year deal that has immediately earned him the "Prince of Detroit" moniker.
The light-hearted, but hefty-boned, Fielder, with his baggy uniform and untrimmed beard, is an unmissable baseball figure, and he will not only beef up the Tigers' formidable line-up, but will turn Detroit into early favourites to appear in the next World Series when the new season starts in April.
The 27-year-old spent his first seven seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, where he hit 230 home runs. Last season he hit 38, to finish second in the National League. In 2007, he was the youngest player to hit 50 homers at the age of 23, and in 2008 he won the National League MVP award.
"One of the great things about Prince, and there are a lot of them, is that the guy plays 162 games [an entire season], and if it was up to him, he would play every inning of every game," the Brewers' owner, Mark Attanasio, told MLB.com this week. "You talk about a bedrock out there, who is out there every single day bringing emotion, that's Prince."
While Fielder is certainly famous for his ability to hit home runs, he is also well known for being one of the chunkiest players in baseball. He weighs the same as the former New Zealand rugby union player Jonah Lomu, is just under the weight of the former Bermudan cricketer Dwayne Leverock (20st), and is almost twice as heavy as Tottenham Hotspur's Aaron Lennon (9st 12).
Down the years Fielder has tried to lose weight, declaring himself a vegetarian at the start of the 2008 season. "I tell people I don't eat meat and they're like, 'Oh!' They forget there's so much other food out there," Fielder said at the time. "Beans, rice, tofu. You've got a lot of good food, baby!" But since his decision, there have been multiple reports poking fun at Fielder's lack of commitment; he was spotted eating beef ribs in a St Louis restaurant during the 2011 season.
The Fielder signing not only makes the Tigers a better and more competitive team but it continues a family tradition. Prince is joining the same club his father, Cecil, starred for. Cecil was 16st 6lb and nicknamed "Big Daddy", so it's easy to see where the bulk comes from. In seven years with the Tigers, Cecil hit 245 home runs. They are the only father-son duo in the history of baseball both to have hit 50 home runs in a season.
"He's been there in Detroit most of his young life so I think he'll be comfortable in that place," Cecil said of his son's return to his hometown.
At 12 years old, Prince used to accompany his father during batting practice in Detroit and hit home runs out of the Tigers' ballpark. "You can't ever say that you look at a kid that age and say that you know he's going to hit 40 or 50 home runs some day, but Prince was unbelievable," the former Detroit Tigers Hall-of-Famer Al Kaline said to ESPN. "Here's a 12-year-old kid commonly hitting homers at a big league ballpark."
At a cost of £136.9m over nine years the Tigers will hope he quickly slips back into the old routine.
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