"I thought I was just gonna cry in the car," Prince Fielder said after several minutes of tear-filled words in a press conference Wednesday afternoon. He was wrong.
The 12-year veteran has been forced to stop playing baseball due to having several vertebrae fused together in his neck. In fact, quality of life would appear to be an issue here, because later in the press conference, Fielder said he went through some tests and couldn't even walk in a straight line.
So, yes, this press conference was a bit different than a normal "retirement" farewell. Here's Fielder's introduction.
For Fielder's benefit, this isn't specifically being called a retirement. Players who retire forfeit the remainder of their contracts. This wasn't Fielder's choice; he will never be medically cleared to play again. So calling it a retirement isn't technically correct. He's still due the remainder of his nine-year, $214 million contract, which runs through 2020.
Though it's not a retirement, his career is over and it was a damn good one. A six-time All-Star, Fielder made the All-Star team with three different teams (Brewers, Tigers, Rangers). In fact, he made the playoffs as a middle-of-the-order hitter for each of those three teams, as well. His career slash line is .283/.382/.506 (134 OPS+) with 321 doubles, 319 home runs, 1,028 RBI and 862 runs.
Fielder led the league in home runs, RBI and walks one time apiece and intentional walks twice. An ironman in his prime, Fielder played in 162 games four different times and at least 157 games every season from 2006-13.
But now, after a second neck surgery, Fielder can't ever take the field again.
From the relative perspective of watching a great power hitter play baseball, it's a shame. It's too bad Fielder can't play the game he loves any longer, either. I don't know what kind of person it would take to watch that video and not feel any shred of sorrow for Fielder.
The biggest worry here, though, is Fielder's quality of life with his family moving forward. No longer a baseball player, he's a human being just like the rest of us. Not that it should matter, but he's one of the nicest people any of us would ever meet. Hopefully he'll be able to walk a straight line again. Hopefully he'll be able to comfortably grow old and remain happy with his family.