Home Run Derby right in Prince's wheelhouse
KANSAS CITY -- Maybe you would not sign Prince Fielder to be the spokesman for a series of Jenny Craig commercials. But in a Home Run Derby, he's a very solid choice, a safe bet, a viable option.
Monday night, in this case, we had the State Farm Home Run Derby, which was, of course, the culmination of Gatorade All-Star Workout Day.
After a day full of interviews just across the parking lots at Arrowhead Stadium, we settled in for a night of bash-ball at Kauffman Stadium. This is where the Prince, now with the Detroit Tigers, comes in and stays in.
The cast of eight sluggers, four from each league, had been assembled. And for the second straight Derby, the local populace wasn't happy about an omission. Last year, when Fielder was captain of the National League Derby squad, he picked his Milwaukee teammate, Rickie Weeks, as part of the NL foursome. But the fans in Phoenix wanted Justin Upton of the Arizona Diamondbacks instead. Every time Fielder came to the plate, he was booed vociferously, both in the Derby and the ensuing All-Star Game. Ditto for Weeks, even though he was merely the selectee, not the selector.
Monday night, the Kansas City fans directed their ire at this year's captain of the American League Derby squad, Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees. Cano did not select Royals fan favorite Billy Butler, and thus he became the villain. Cano was the defending Home Run Derby champion, but that didn't help him with the Kansas City fan base. He was booed for showing up on the field and doing an interview.
This was Fielder's second Home Run Derby title. The first came in 2009 in another Missouri locale, St. Louis. Only Ken Griffey Jr. and Fielder have won more than one Derby.
Why is Fielder so successful in this event?
"Because he's the best player ever," Fielder's son Jadyn said Monday night.
That was a nice bit of family loyalty, although it may have been ever so slightly overstated. Fielder explained his increasing success in successive rounds Monday night by saying: "The ball met the barrel more, I guess."
He also suggested that while hitting home runs might look easy, it isn't, and he trotted out the well-used line -- using a round bat to hit a round ball squarely -- as proof.
But here's the thing: This is Fielder's natural habitat. His natural swing is a home run swing. He doesn't have to change his approach, his stroke, his attitude or anything. The Home Run Derby is his milieu, his turf, his area. He is built for power, not for speed. Plus, he likes doing this, and he's really good at it.
"I'll definitely keep doing them," Fielder said of the Derby. "They're a lot of fun."
It appears to be especially enjoyable when you can hit the ball 476 feet into the fountains beyond the wall in right-center. In addition to Fielder's long-ball heroics this evening, the home runs raised $615,000 for various charitable causes.
It was a good evening on that score. And it was another example of a man, in this case, Prince Fielder, happy and successful in a setting, the Home Run Derby, that represents for him a perfect marriage of ability and opportunity.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.