Phoenix Prince Fielder understood the boos, that his decision not to take hometown star Justin Upton with him to the Home Run Derby had cast him into a role of black-hatted villain in the desert.
His two kids didn’t quite like it, which made quieting those catcalls, even for a second, feel oh so sweet.
Shaking off two days of jeers, Fielder hit a crowd-shushing three-run homer that had his kids smiling and earned him All-Star game MVP honors in the National League’s 5-1 victory over the American League on Tuesday night.
“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.”
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 finals 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 in the fourth inning that sent a collective ‘ohh!’ through the crowd.
“It’s hard to beat great pitching and a three-run homer,” NL manager Bruce Bochy said. “Great at-bat, two strikes, and we are down one run, and you get the Most Valuable Player, which he should. So it’s nice to hear the cheers for him because I know yesterday, they wanted Upton in there.”
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!” 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.