SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Now that Matt Holliday has left town, the leather-lunged portion of the crowd at AT&T Park will need a new target.
They won’t have to look far, and he’s a hard guy to miss.
Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder is the one guy the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval can stand next to and not be the “big guy” in the photo. Fielder is listed at 275 pounds, and he’s a big target in more ways than one.
Let’s just say that Fielder’s persona can be as outsized as his physique, and it doesn’t always rub other baseball people the right way. Case in point: the infamous “bowling ball” stunt in a September, 2009 game in Milwaukee. Fielder hit a walk-off homer to beat the Giants, and when he arrived at home plate, he played the role of the bowling ball while his Brewers teammates played the pins. The choreographed stunt didn’t please the Giants.
And they weren’t alone. Angels outfielder Torii Hunter was quoted as saying, “If I was a pitcher, I’d be ticked off. You can’t do that.” It was, pure and simple, a violation of one of baseball’s many unwritten rules: you can celebrate, but you can’t show up your opponents. And if you need to ask whether you’ve crossed the line, you probably already have.
The Giants seethed, but not for long. While Fielder’s stunt ended the last Giants-Brewers game of 2009, it was on a March 2010 afternoon in Arizona that the baseball gods got their offering. Fielder was plunked in the back by a pitch thrown in a Cactus League game. His reaction? “Let them hit me once, and if that makes them feel better, that’s awesome.”
And because storylines always work out this way, the guy who threw the pitch will watch Fielder dig in against him during Game 1 of the World Series. That’s right, it was Barry Zito, who issued the typical “we were just trying to work inside” non-denial denial.
Case closed, as far as that goes. But it’s worth noting that nine current Giants players (if you count disabled-but-very-present Freddy Sanchez and Brian Wilson) were at Miller Park for the Fielder stunt. Zito, of course, was one of them.
And so was a young phenom named Buster Posey, sitting in the Giants dugout during his first week in the big leagues. He saw it all, and catchers have long memories.
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