Prince Fielder wasted little time settling into his new spring training home. His was an early arrival in Lakeland, Florida where he suited up in the Old English D for the first time in earnest today. This isn't Fielder's first trip to Lakeland but a lot has changed since his last visit, which probably seems like a lifetime ago for him now.
A new summer home means new late winter arrivals as Detroit's new big man relocated the address of his luggage tags for arrival in Florida's Grapefruit League as opposed to the home of the Milwaukee Brewers in Maryvale, Arizona. Roughly 2,000 miles apart and in differing dry versus moist climates will provide at least a little change of pace from the annual spring trip Fielder has made in the past
"It's different, yeah, it's definitely different," Fielder told Jason Beck of MLB.com outside the Tigers spring training facility. "Like you said, it wasn't the Brewers, being a different team, getting to know the guys, but it's still baseball."
His new teammate and fellow ball crusher Miguel Cabrera wasted no time welcoming his newest protector in what promises to be one of the most lethal offenses in the American League. Cabrera shared his respect and admiration for Fielder almost immediately, "it's like old family around here, he's like family now, just like he already played a lot of years here."
A reporter commented to Fielder like this team (the Tigers) looks like a murderer's row, which is no stretch by any means. Fielder's response was quick and affirmed, saying "yeah" emphatically. He was also quick to caution however that, "you have to do what people are expecting you to do first."
What Fielder was referring to was getting things done now, preparing in spring training for the long haul of the MLB season. It should be no surprise that Fielder arrived early. If not for the interest of the obvious meet and greet with new teammates, it is more likely his arrival was for the simple purpose of getting prepared. Fielder is a workhorse and has played nearly every game since becoming a full fledged major league player, including two perfect attendance marks two of the past three seasons.
It also includes having some fun while getting comfortable in his new digs. MLB beat reporter for the Detroit Tigers, Jason Beck, reported, "Before he went out to the field, Fielder told reporters he and his two young sons had traded him from Milwaukee to Detroit in their baseball video game to see him in action in a Tigers uniform." Fielder seems to be fitting right in with comfortable old surroundings.
"I know I grew up around Tiger Stadium and some of the fans," Fielder said Monday morning outside Joker Marchant Stadium, "but I didn't think they'd remember me that much. But seeing that they do, it's pretty awesome. I'm glad I'm part of it" (MLB.com).
Clearly, Fielder is thinking little about where he's been and putting much more energy into where he's headed. For the city of Detroit that kind of focus and resolve is exactly the type of attitude its people would expect. "I just wanted to get here," Fielder said. "I had nothing else to do." He knew it was time to go to work, with his mind racing on baseball and the excitement of a whole new generation of Fielder fans, why would he want to do anything else than get ready to ride the wave?
Ball players are like little kids in the spring time, eager to get out and play in the break of the warm southern sun and to have fun with their pals like they did on the school playgrounds or stick ball games in the street.
They talk the same way too, with dreams and aspirations. Highlight reel talk I like to call it. "All I know is I'm excited," Cabrera said. Fielder echoed, "Whenever you see an MVP-type player hitting in front of you, it's always motivation, because you see greatness every night," They both tempered their enthusiasm with a dose of realistic work ethic, stating, "We've got to do it first."
A feeling of normalcy on day one seems almost strange. But, with the legitimate build of excitement that's led up to the first day they've had a chance to interact publicly and among media, neither seems willing to curb their excitement any less. They both know the potential for terror their names could cost opposing manager's ability to work around their lethal combination.
If Fielder and Cabrera are like kids playing home run derby at the local little league park in February, imagine the sight of them one late evening in October, fireworks blasting like the fourth of July.