PHOENIX (AP)—Prince Fielder spent two days in the desert being booed, payback for not picking hometown hero Justin Upton for the Home Run Derby.
Fielder’s two sons didn’t like the negative attention, which made it even tougher to take.
So if he had to do it over again, would Fielder go with Upton in the derby instead?
“Absolutely not,” he said.
Peppered with boos for his perceived slight of Upton, Fielder took home MPV honors and quieted the crowd with a three-run homer that lifted the National League to a 5-1 victory over the American League on Tuesday night in the All-Star game.
A black-hatted villain for most of his stay time in the desert, Fielder calmed at least some of the Arizona ire directed at him by helping to give the National League home-field advantage in the World Series.
“It’s nice to hear the cheers for him because I know yesterday, they wanted Upton in there,” NL manager Bruce Bochy said.
The NL captain for the Home Run Derby on Monday night, Fielder irked the locals when he bypassed Upton, the Diamondbacks’ ultra-talented right fielder.
Fielder couldn’t keep them quiet during the derby, missing the final while being booed every at-bat. But he came through in the All-Star game, hitting a long drive off Texas left-hander C.J. Wilson(notes) in the fourth inning that sent a collective ohh! through the crowd and brought a smile to his kids’ faces.
“Of course your family is going to be a little … they didn’t like it too much,” Fielder said with sons Jadyn and Haven by his side. “But we didn’t dwell on it. I didn’t take it too personal because, I mean, I probably would have booed myself, too, if I was an Arizona fan.”
A three-time All-Star, Fielder was on the spot after Major League Baseball shook up the format for the Home Run Derby this year.
Instead of bringing in eight players to whack it out, two captains were selected to pick four-person teams from each league. Fielder got the NL honors and Boston’s David Ortiz, the defending derby champion, got to pick the AL stars.
Upton figured to be a favorite to make the NL team, in part because he was from the host club, but also because he had put up good power numbers this season and, obviously, knows where to hit the ball at spacious Chase Field.
Instead, Fielder selected teammate Rickie Weeks, Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp and Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday, drawing the ire of Diamondbacks fans.
They let him have it, too, raining boos down on him during introductions at the Home Run Derby and with each at-bat Monday night. Arizona’s fans also took it out on Weeks and Kemp, screaming out boos and chants of “Justin Upton! Justin Upton!” during their at-bats.
Fielder managed to get through a swing-off to reach the derby semifinals, going a perfect 5 for 5, but came up short after that, relegated to watching while Adrian Gonzalez and eventual champion Robinson Cano continued on.
The fans weren’t done letting him have it, though, coming up with more rounds of boos during the All-Star game introductions and each of his first two at-bats.
Second to St. Louis’ Lance Berkman in the NL with 22 homers, Fielder put a lump in their throats in the second at-bat, sending a towering drive to left-center that caromed off the top of the wall and put the NL up 3-1. He was done after that, but didn’t really need to do anymore.
“I don’t know if I transformed them, but I understood,” said Fielder, the first Brewers player to win the All-Star MVP award. “That just shows you how much Justin means to them. Yeah, I didn’t take it personal at all. I think these guys (his sons) took it more personal than me.”
Despite hearing the boos, Fielder was glad to have his family there with him.
His father, Cecil, was a three-time All-Star, making them just the fourth father-son combination to make the All-Star game. Prince’s relationship with his father has become estranged over the years, so being able to have such a big moment at the All-Star game with his wife and kids was a special moment.
“I’m just working on my relationship with them,” said Fielder, who donated his game-worn jersey to baseball’s Hall of Fame. “You know, my dad’s relationship has nothing to do with them. I’m just trying to be the best that I can be for them. As far as my dad, I don’t bring that in with our relationship at all.”
At the end of his contract, Fielder could be one of the most sought-after free agents next winter. The lucrative offers might be tough for the small-market Brewers to match, so there’s a decent possibility this season could be his last in Milwaukee.
“Last year, I was guaranteed (and) I had no choice but to come back and it was emotional then, my last at-bat in Milwaukee,” he said. “So, I can only imagine with me not having not signed for next year at all now, it will probably be a little more emotional. But, hopefully, I don’t have to think about that until after we hold up the World Series trophy.”
He’s got one trophy to tide him over until then.