Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder may look like a chunk off the old block, but he's determined to prove that any resemblance to his father, Cecil, ends with his prodigious home runs
Posted: Tuesday May 22, 2007 9:36AM; Updated: Tuesday May 22, 2007 9:38AM
Almost every night the father watches the boy on television, cheering every home run, cursing every strikeout. He studies the boy -- the massive, tattooed arms, the prodigious midsection, the mighty swing -- and it's as if he's seeing a younger version of himself. He hears the broadcasters hail the boy as one of the game's next great sluggers, and the father roars back at the TV, "He's got 40 career homers! Take it easy!" The father watches the boy wave at a fastball on the outside corner, and he's ready to pick up the phone and scream, "Now, what the hell were you doing so far off the plate?"
But he can't. Everything between the father and son has gone horribly wrong. The two haven't spoken in three years. The son wants nothing to do with the father. "I raised him. I gave him everything," says the father, Cecil Fielder, sitting in an empty baseball dugout on a sultry afternoon in Aiken, S.C. "He's never had a f------ job! The only job the boy's ever had is playing baseball."
The boy is 23-year-old Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers, who has followed in Cecil's footsteps as a first baseman. In the eighth inning of a May 15 game in Philadelphia, Prince pulled a sinker below the knees into the rightfield seats at Citizens Bank Park. It was his sixth homer in 11 games and 12th of the year, tying him then for tops in the National League. Cecil, who had started working as a roving hitting instructor for a nascent independent league earlier this month, missed the moment because he was at a scrimmage in South Carolina with Kash Beauchamp, a former teammate in the Toronto Blue Jays' minor league system and the South Coast League's VP for baseball operations. "I see Cec later, and I can tell he's checked a Brewers box score because he's got that glow on his face," says Beauchamp, who recruited Fielder. "'Kid got him another one,' he says to me."
They were once inseparable, the father and the son. During the 1990s Cecil was one of baseball's most recognizable figures: the man they called Big Daddy, a sumo-sized first baseman with a big smile and devastating swing. Cecil mashed 51 home runs for the Detroit Tigers in 1990 -- when 50 was still a magical number -- played in three All-Star Games and won a World Series with the '96 New York Yankees. And beefy, dimpled Prince was there every step of the way. He joined Cecil on road trips during the summer and was a fixture in his father's clubhouses, where players wrestled with him, stuffed him in laundry baskets and loaded him up with candy. Prince took batting practice with major leaguers. He appeared in commercials alongside his dad. He chilled with superstars like Derek Jeter and Ken Griffey Jr. "I'd go over to Griffey's house [in Seattle] and play video games with him," Prince says. "He beat me in everything, but it was cool -- like he was one of my friends. It was like that with everyone. Those were fun days."
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