Emotional Prince Fielder bids farewell to baseball
Arlington, Texas — Former Tiger Prince Fielder will not be able to come back after a second neck surgery.
The Texas Rangers slugger wept Wednesday as he said health issues were forcing him to end his 12-season major league career. He was still wearing a neck brace 12 days after his second cervical fusion in just over two years.
The 32-year-old Fielder said it’s going to be tough not being able to play again after being around the majors since he was a kid with his father, Cecil, a slugger who played 13 seasons for five teams. Prince’s two sons — one who turns 12 next week and the other 10 — sat with him at the podium, mostly with their heads down and also shedding tears.
All of his Rangers teammates, along with coaches and staff, filled the interview room at their home ballpark to support him.
Fielder was one of the most durable players in the majors when Texas acquired from Detroit after the 2013 season for second baseman Ian Kinsler.
The stout first baseman had played at least 157 games every year since 2006, and appeared in 809 of 810 possible games the previous five seasons before joining the Rangers. But Fielder was limited to 289 games in Texas, including the two season-ending neck surgeries.
Fielder will finish his career with 319 career homers, the same number that his father had playing one more season but 141 fewer games. The only other father-son duo with more than 300 homers each is Bobby and Barry Bonds.
After being limited to 42 games in his Rangers debut in 2014 because of the first surgery, Fielder talked about how much he missed baseball and returned last season with a revived passion for the game.
Primarily a designated hitter in 2015, Fielder hit .305 with 23 homers and 98 RBIs in 158 games, though midway through the season he started feeling symptoms again related to neck issues. He then struggled throughout this season, hitting a career-low .212 with eight homers and 44 RBIs in 89 games until finally getting an exam three weeks ago while the team was in Los Angeles.
An MRI showed a herniation between Fielder’s C4 and C5 disks, just above where he first had surgery in May 2014. Doctors were already recommending that he quit playing before the second surgery July 29.
Fielder was only two years into a $214 million, nine-year contract when he got to Texas. That guaranteed deal goes through 2020, for $24 million each season.
While no longer playing, Fielder didn’t formally retire, meaning the Rangers would have him on the 60-day disabled list during the regular season but would have to add him to their 40-man roster each offseason until the end of the contract.
As for the money, the Tigers owe Texas $6 million a year as part of the 2013 deal. The Rangers are responsible for the remaining $18 million, though about half of their liability could be covered by disability insurance the team has on the contract.
Over 1,611 major league games with the Brewers (2005-11), Tigers (2012-13) and Rangers (2014-16), Fielder hit .283 with 1,028 RBIs.