Family man: What Prince Fielder can teach us about family
Forget the stats.
This is not about six All-Star appearances, three Silver Sluggers, Comeback Player Awards or two Home Run Derby Championships. This is not about a lifetime .283/.382/.506 slash, 26.8 fWAR. It’s not about a total active playing time of about two years with Texas over three seasons, two seasons in Detroit or seven in Milwaukee. It is not about finishing with the same amount of home runs as his father (in case you hadn’t heard). You can look all that up yourself.
Forget the financials. This is not about the $24 million Detroit owes, the $36 million Texas owes or the $36 million covered by insurance, all payable through 2020. This is not about the difference between the terms “entering retirement” and “physically unable to play,” at least not as far as financials go. This isn’t about the roughly $200 million that he will have amassed by the time his career is officially finished.
This is about Prince Fielder the family man.
Coming out of a rough stretch where it felt like the team only won 25% of its games, facing a relatively hot Colorado Rockies team, after coming away from two games against that club that required high stress and extra effort to win, two families gathered in the media room at Globe Life Park in Arlington.
One family’s brother had fallen along the way, having to be left behind.
Fielder, with tears in his eyes, called the men wearing blue warm up gear his family. It wasn’t an exaggeration or empty phrase. Here in this room were more than 25 players and coaches who had witnessed one of the most feared sluggers in the game’s renaissance. Here in this room a band of brothers, who very recently watched him reaffirm his love and joy for playing the game of baseball, now watched him leave behind the culture he’s known his entire life. This family, the first place Texas Rangers, was saying goodbye to Prince Fielder. Fielder, before walking off, said that he would be back in that dugout cheering on his teammates to what hopefully amounts to a World Series win.
As strong as that bond is between Fielder and his teammates, there was another family that shed tears right alongside him. His wife Chanel and sons Jadyn and Haven showed the support that the 32-year old now ex Major Leaguer needed more than anything in that moment. In this room a grown man was telling scores of reporters, and a national TV audience of baseball fans, that his career and joy was being stripped from him far before he ever intended. His sons, crying next to him, had been telling him that they wouldn’t let him feel sad. Their strength was doing more for Fielder than any medical procedure could.
Fielder said he would miss the clubhouse, the on-field workouts, the All-Star appearances but not for the accolades, achievements, awards or accomplishments. Fielder said he would miss all of those things because his sons enjoyed being on the field with him during all of them.
That’s what got me.
Here was a man making $24 million per year to play a game. Here was a man capable of sending baseballs more than 400 feet from home plate at velocities greater than 100 miles per hour. Here was a man that defied conventional wisdom that a person of his size and stature should be able to play this game and played it with gusto, fervor, joy and passion.
But at his core, Prince Fielder is just like me: a man who would do anything to bring joy to his family. Whether that is being the butt end of an impossibly long handshake, dancing to cheer a teammate up, making sure the rookie gets his curtain call before giving him a congratulatory hug of his own, bringing his kids on the field, playing video games with them, recommitting to his relationship with his wife or even still trying to crack jokes during the toughest moment of his life.
My son is only seven months old. I’m not insinuating that Prince Fielder didn’t treasure the time he had playing baseball, but his timeline with the Rangers – having the game taken away from him, rejuvenating his love for it, then having it taken away from him again – inspires me. He inspires me to be a more passionate man in all I do.
He inspires me to take joy in something as simple as playing a game.
He inspires me to show my family that all I do, all I strive to be, will mean nothing if I don’t have their love and support. He wasn’t the most athletic to play the game, or the face of a franchise or of baseball. But my kid’s first shirsey is a Prince Fielder shirsey, and I’ll be keeping it around, long after he’s outgrown it.
I’ll tell him that Prince Fielder was a man who loved the game he played, but he loved his family more. Hopefully, we’ll be able to meet him down the road, should he decide to stay in the game. Hopefully, I’ll be able to tell him that he helped me raise my kid right.