Milwaukee Brewers star first baseman Prince Fielder, 23, will start in the All-Star game tonight, and is leading the National League in homeruns. There are inevitable comparisons between Prince Fielder and his father Cecil (both pictured), who led the majors in RBI three seasons in a row for the Detroit Tigers during the 1990s. Both Fielders are/were big, slow, power-hitting first basemen, and both were visibly close during Cecil's career. During Cecil's career with the Tigers, he was widely seen as a doting family man, and Prince was often with his father in the clubhouse or at batting practice. As Prince began his professional career, the two seemed like the perfect father-son story. Now, in what should have been a father's proudest moment, Cecil and Prince are not on speaking terms. Cecil says: "I never thought my son would be like this. He was always a happy-go-lucky kid, and [now] he's got a lot of anger. It's a shame that he and I aren't enjoying what he's doing right now." Cecil Fielder claims that his son was turned against him by his angry ex-wife. Prince claims that his father failed him and their family. Cecil Fielder earned $47 million during his career. He and his ex-wife Stacey Fielder had two children, Prince and Ceclynn, 15. In the late '90s/early '00s, Cecil Fielder lost an enormous amount of money in bad business deals and through his gambling addiction. Stacey Fielder was apparently unaware of what was happening, and had the once-wealthy lifestyle she expected to enjoy for the rest of her life cut out from underneath her without warning. Some points, not in any particular order: 1) The biggest bone of contention between Prince and his father is that Cecil took $200,000 of Prince's $2.4 million 2002 signing bonus. Prince apparently considers this money stolen from him. An article written at the time, Fielder's father adroit at business side, too (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 6/19/02), claimed that Cecil is a "pretty good negotiator," who represented his son in negotiations with the Brewers and got his son a good deal. At the time, people were very suspicious of Prince because of his weight problem, and many derided the Brewers for drafting him so high. Recently Prince, who weighed over 300 pounds in his sophomore year in high school, said, "They didn't think I could play...I'd love to know what they're saying now." The money Cecil took out of the deal is not at all excessive as far as what sports agents charge. Perhaps Cecil had agreed to represent Prince for free, then took the money anyway because he felt he had earned it. Perhaps he took it because he was desperate due to his debts, and he intended to pay it back. Prince (understandably) felt he was lied to. 2) In previous stories, Prince was mad at his father for remarrying, and (allegedly) not having a relationship with his sister, Ceclynn. According to a recent story, Ceclynn is now living with Cecil and his new wife, and Cecil's ex-wife has remarried. 3) In previous stories, Prince was mad at his father for leaving his mother and sister penniless. According to a 2004 Detroit News article, Stacey and their daughter "receive no money from Fielder and don't even have medical insurance," and their home was foreclosed upon by creditors. Prince said that his father was living with a woman in Atlanta in a nice penthouse. Prince is right to be angry at his father over this. To be fair, though, it may also be true that Cecil had no money to give at that point, and the penthouse apparently belonged to the woman, not him. Cecil also claims that Stacey was "physically and mentally abusive" to him, and Stacey doesn't really deny it, instead saying that Cecil's financial disaster created her anger. In other words, the divorce wasn't all Cecil's fault. 4) Cecil says his ex-wife encouraged Prince to disrespect and denigrate him, particularly around the time of the divorce. He says: "I think it was a mistake by his mother from the beginning, letting Prince believe he was a man and that he could talk to his daddy like I was a man on the street. It's just not going to fly. I think that was half the problem." According to a 2004 Detroit News article, Fielder "was saddened to learn that his son, Prince, 20, and daughter, Ceclynn, 12, want no part of their father. " "Through all his troubles -- a welter of debts, liens, lawsuits and process servers, and a bitter divorce dispute with his wife, Stacey -- Fielder said at least he remained a good father. "'One thing I've got to say about this whole ordeal is that anybody that knows me knows I'm a good person and I would never, ever, do anything to neglect my children,' he said. "Ceclynn and Prince, however, disagree with that assessment. "'My dad ... I just don't know him,' Ceclynn said in a telephone interview, speaking in the presence of her mother and brother. "'My father is dead to me,' said Prince Fielder, now a minor-league baseball player in the Milwaukee organization. "Cecil Fielder, 41, said he was saddened by his children's remarks. "'The only thing I can say about my son, because I want you to know, like everybody else knows in Detroit, (is) that I have done everything in my power to make sure that boy has gotten to where he's gotten,' Fielder said. 'The little girl is a 12-year-old, she's going to react the way her mother and her brother react, but, in his case? That kid has gotten everything I had to give, and for him to have that kind of comment, that's sad. But in a divorce as brutal as this has been, it's going to happen. This has been one of the worst periods of my life.'" Stacey Fielder was understandably angry with Cecil, but it appears that she aligned her children with her in that anger, and that is wrong. To Stacey Fielder's credit, recently Cecil said his former wife has been trying to coordinate a reconciliation between Cecil and Prince. 5) Cecil claims that the dissipation of the family's fortune was not all his fault--he says his wife lost $500,000 in a failed business deal, and redecorated their mansion four times in seven years, costing $4 million. 6) One of the issues that the press reports separates Cecil and Prince is that when Prince was in the minor leagues he was once served papers by a process server looking for his father--as he trotted off the field after hitting a homerun. I have mixed emotions about this. Part of me thinks, "Get over it." On the other hand, it must have been quite a shock for Prince, then only 18, to find out that his father, always a rock of stability and love, was a fugitive on the run from creditors. What to make of all this? One can certainly understand Prince's anger at his father. However, Cecil was a good father throughout Prince's childhood, and gave him a good, loving home. Anybody can lose money in business deals, and compulsive gambling is increasingly seen as a disease, not a sin. According to the Associated Press, Al Arostegui, formerly the family realtor, says, "This isn't a story of a hero who went bad, but a hero who got sick. For Cecil, gambling is a disease; it's like a cancer of some sort that ate away his wealth." My conclusion? Prince certainly has ample reason to be mad at his father. He has even more reason to forgive him.
Glenn Sacks, MA for Fathers & Families