STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Prince Fielder used to take batting practice as a kid at Tigers Stadium, and was known for hitting the ball over the right-field fence at a young age.
After being traded to the Texas Rangers, the slugging first baseman now will play his home games in a ballpark where right field is modeled after the old stadium in Detroit where he used to hang out when his father played there.
“I like it. … I’m definitely going to look into that,” Fielder said, with a chuckle. “I’m just happy to be here, play hard and win some games.”
The Rangers introduced their newest player Monday, five days after acquiring him in a blockbuster trade of All-Stars, with popular second baseman Ian Kinsler going to Detroit.
Fielder was only two seasons into the $214 million, nine-year contract he signed with Detroit before the 2012 season. The Rangers had met with Fielder during free agency then, though their offer was nowhere close to what he got from Detroit.
With his new team also comes a new jersey number. Fielder will wear No. 84 with the Rangers, not the No. 28 he had worn through his 1,322 career games with Milwaukee (2005-11) and Detroit (2012-13).
“It’s a new start I guess, and 84 is the year I was born. It’s just fresh,” he said. “I think it works.”
That also happens to be the last year the Tigers won the World Series.
Kinsler is guaranteed $62 million through 2017: $16 million in each of the next two seasons, $14 million in 2016, $11 million in 2017 and a $5 million buyout of a $10 million option.
Detroit also will send Texas $30 million as part of the swap, payable from 2016-20, to cover part of the $168 million Fielder is due through 2020.
Fielder agreed with the perception that he has to be productive through his whole contract for the deal to work out for the Rangers. He also doesn’t think that will be too much of a problem.
“But I’m going to try to take it year by year,” he said. “It’s definitely not going be a challenge. Baseball, I love this game. So why would I do anything to cost myself not to be able to play.”
Texas settled one of the its primary offseason wants with the acquisition of Fielder, while also opening a spot at second base for talented youngster Jurickson Profar.
“We certainly this winter were searching to get more production in our lineup,” manager Ron Washington said, before patting the big first baseman on the back. “I don’t think (general manager) Jon Daniels could have given us an earlier Christmas present than giving us Prince Fielder. I’ve always enjoyed watching him play from afar. Now I get to watch him on a daily basis.”
Among the needs the Rangers still have this offseason, after missing the playoffs for the first time in four years, are left field, designated hitter and a backup catcher behind Geovany Soto.
“We’re still looking at different ways to get better,” Daniels said. “I think we’ve got a pretty good start. … A 29-year old power hitter in the prime of his career, one of the most productive players in the game. Maybe just as importantly to us, he really stands for a lot of thing and exemplifies a lot of the things that Wash pushes, and you see from our team. He has fun out there, but he plays hard, comes to play every day, runs hard, doesn’t take at-bats off.”
Fielder has played in 505 consecutive major league games, giving the stout first baseman the longest current active streak. He has played in 809 of 810 possible games since the start of 2009.
Asked about his will to want to play every day, Fielder talked about fouling a ball off of his shin when he was 11 years old.
“My dad told me I wasn’t hurt, and I didn’t know what he meant and he walked away and didn’t talk to me for like a day or two,” Fielder said. “From then on, I was like all right, I guess that means you should play unless it’s broken. I just decided to play no matter what.”
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