Prince returns to Miller Park, honored by Crew

July 24th, 2018

MILWAUKEE -- The last time Prince Fielder was at Miller Park, he sat at the same table in the same media amphitheater, but under far more somber circumstances. Game 6 of the 2011 National League Championship Series had just ended, and the sting of falling two victories short of the 2011 World Series was fresh. For Fielder, free agency loomed.

Seven years later, he returned to Milwaukee all smiles.

The slugging first baseman was added to the Brewers' Wall of Honor on Tuesday, alongside former Brewers general managers Harry Dalton and Doug Melvin, at the same time old teammate Geoff Jenkins received the franchise's highest honor short of having a uniform number retired: a place in the Miller Park Walk of Fame.

"It feels like it did when I was playing here," said Fielder, now 34 and two years removed from the neck injury that ended his playing career. "My kids are remembering the stuff we used to do around here, and so is my wife. We're all getting flashbacks. It's pretty cool."

The most vivid flashback? Fielder said it was Sept. 28, 2008, the Sunday afternoon that pitched a complete game and homered to beat the Cubs in the regular-season finale to clinch the NL Wild Card. There was another postseason run in 2011, when the Brewers won the NL Central and beat the D-backs in the NL Division Series before falling to St. Louis in the NLCS.

Back in the same interview room on Tuesday, Fielder admitted he knew in the wake of that NLCS Game 6 that his tenure with the Brewers was ending.

"I think a lot of people probably assumed it," said Fielder, who signed with the Tigers and then finished his career with the Rangers. "But I had a good time here. I tried to help the team win. We didn't get it done."

He remains the Brewers' all-time leader in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and at-bats per home run, and ranks third in club history with 230 regular-season homers.

Fielder was the team's iron man along the way. In his six full seasons with the Brewers, he played all but 13 games. In 2009, when Fielder led the Majors with 141 RBIs, he played every inning of every game.

"Obviously, it wasn't a smart move, but I didn't know how else to play," Fielder said, a reference to the neck injury that derailed his career. "I think if I wouldn't have been that kind of player, now I would be sad not being able to play at 34. I think by playing like that, I literally put my neck on the line. I'm kind of at peace with it now."

Jenkins follows Fielder on the Brewers' all-time leaderboard with 212 home runs. He was also a first-round Draft pick and played 10 seasons in Milwaukee, overlapping with Fielder from 2005-07 as a wave of prospects developed under Melvin's watch made it to the Major Leagues and lifted the Brewers to contention.

"It kind of made me wish I was born, like, six or seven years later," Jenkins said. "That's once in a generation to have that many great players come through at one time."

He added: "That's a testament to Doug."

• Jenkins elected to Brewers Walk of Fame

At the same time, Fielder credited Jenkins for helping contain Fielder's famous temper, aiding in everything from handling stress to communicating with umpires.

"When I came up, I got mad very easily," Fielder said. "He was the main guy that helped me with that. He was always cool, you know? I kept watching him. He just helped me learn how to contain some of that and channel into better areas. It was good. He helped me a lot."