PHOENIX -- With one flick of the wrist on Tuesday night, Prince Fielder finally earned the respect of a sellout Chase Field crowd.And with his one swat in the fourth inning, Fielder was named the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player as the National League defeated the American League, 5-1, in the 82nd All-Star Game.
The Home Run Derby captain who dismayed D-backs fans by not placing hometown favorite Justin Upton on the NL team for Monday's long ball exhibition endured jeers and boos because of his decision, but he won the fans over with his long blast to left-center field on Tuesday night.
"Yeah, I don't know if I transformed [the fans], but I understood," said Fielder, who chose teammate Rickie Weeks and Dodgers slugger Matt Kemp to the NL Derby team over Upton. "I didn't take it too personal. I mean, I probably would have booed myself, too, if I was an Arizona fan. That just shows you how much Justin means to them."
Fielder became the first Brewers player to hit an All-Star Game homer and attain MVP status, which is quite an accomplishment, considering that the franchise was born in 1969 as the Seattle Pilots and moved to Milwaukee a year later. The short list of great Brewers players includes a pair of Hall of Famers: Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, who both amassed more than 3,000 hits but never attained this particular honor.Fielder's blast came off the Rangers' C.J. Wilson -- lefty hitter off left-handed pitcher -- and erased a 1-0 AL lead. "That's what good players do," Upton said about Fielder. "He wore it from our fans all week. I don't know if that was warranted or not. That's for everybody else to really decide. But he stepped up." Fielder has also done all of this in his walk year, heading toward free agency. He enters the second half of the season leading the NL with 72 RBIs and is second in homers behind Kemp with 22. The Brewers are in contention to win the NL Central for the first time and at 49-43 are tied with the Cardinals for first place, a game ahead of the Pirates and four in front of the Reds. Fielder said he hasn't felt the requisite pressure that free agency usually brings because the Brewers are such a potent team. "Whenever you have a good team, at least I feel like nobody has a bad year on that team," Fielder said. "When you're focused on winning and your team is winning, the personal achievements will come. But if you're not winning, it's that much harder. This year, I wanted to go in with the focus of winning because we have the best team I've been on so far. I went in focusing on that." Fielder, of course, is a core Brewer player. He was taken by Milwaukee with the seventh pick of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft and has played almost seven seasons in Milwaukee, having led the NL with 50 homers in 2007 and 141 RBIs two years later. He's on track to hit 40 or more homers for the third time and surpass the 100-RBI mark for the fourth time. Fielder's future in Milwaukee is uncertain, with most pundits speculating that the Brewers will not be able to re-sign him.
"I think it's going to be very emotional," Fielder said. "Last year, I was guaranteed for one more season and I had no choice about coming back. Still, my last at-bat in Milwaukee was emotional, so I can't imagine what it will be like this year with me not signed for next season."That, of course, is months away. Getting back to the matter at hand, Fielder became the sixth player to win a Home Run Derby and later capture an All-Star Game MVP. He won the Derby two years ago in St. Louis and was thus named captain this year under a new format in which that captain chooses the other three players swinging for his league. As it turned out, the Upton snub may have been costly. The NL was out-homered by the AL, 76-19, on Monday and Fielder was the only NL hitter to make it to the second round. He hit nine in all. Robinson Cano of the Yankees won it with 32, including 12 in the final round. Almost every time Fielder and Weeks came to the plate on Monday, they were booed by the Chase Field fans, and that continued into the pregame introductions on Tuesday. Only after Fielder homered in the game did all that turn around. Asked if he might have done it differently, considering all the trouble, and simply picked Upton, Fielder said, "Absolutely not." Just like in the fourth inning on Tuesday night, Fielder stood his ground.