Fielder's introductory press conference was televised live on MLB Network, giving him a chance to show off some pretty awful cornrows. He was joined on stage by agent Scott Boras, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch, GM Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland.
Fielder's opening comments:
First of all I want to thank my wife, my lovely wife. She means the world to me and she's kept me on track to get here today so I want to say thank you to her. I want to say thank you to Mr. Ilitch and the Ilitch family. This is awesome. I don't really know what to say. I'm just excited that this is kind of a dream come true. So I'm excited. I want to thank Scott (Boras), this is my man right here, I messed up his hair earlier...I said when I was 18 when we got to this day I was going to mess his hair up. So it does get messed up. Yeah, I'm just excited to be here and can't wait to get it going.
Prince: What does wearing the script D mean, coming home?
It's awesome. I really don't know what to say, I just never thought this could happen and it's happening now. It's an awesome moment and I'm glad I get to be here with my family and one of my sons up here. Like I said, this is an awesome moment and a real special day.
Mike Ilitch on how this happened:
Well it came about when (Victor) Martinez got injured and we sat down, Dave (Dombrowski) and I and some other key people in the organization about how we're going to handle this. I got a little dizzy with who's supposed to move here and who's supposed to move there and we've got Raburn here and fill ins for this one, that one. And I got to thinking "They're all going to have pressure on them to be able to match that .320 batting average, 100 RBIs, they're going to feel pressure filling that slot. I don't want to run into that. I was telling Dave, I think I'd feel better if we were just able to totally solve it. When he (Martinez) gets back, I think we'll have a very explosive team. So that's really how it got going. Then I decided we always wanted Prince...we missed him by one slot in the draft when Milwaukee picked him just before us, and we were ready for it but it didn't happen. So it's always been on my mind over the years and of course I followed him very closely, and I saw...what he did in Milwaukee was unbelievable. So I went to Dave and said, "You know, I think we should go after Prince. Let's make an effort and see if we can get him." After that it's a long story.
Mike Ilitch: Did anyone tell you you're crazy to do this?
Well, I've made a few moves in sports. I've got a couple of guys in the other sport on nine year deals. (Ilitch also owns the NHL's Detroit Red Wings.) That's working out beautiful. I know this is a lot more money but I go by my instincts like everyone else does in business and my instincts told me that this is going to work out fine. I'm not going to worry about it. I know what Prince can do and giving 100%...well he gives 120. So he'll give 120% and that's all you can ask of anybody and I feel very confident that things will work out. That's just how I feel about it. I feel good about it. I don't have any concerns. I'm not nervous about it. I know there's probably something wrong with me there...but anyhow. It's a green light.
Prince: Do you expect to play first base?
Yeah, that's what I was before I went into free agency so that's what I had in mind.
There's much, much more after the jump.
Scott Boras: Who initiated contact, when did you realize it'd be a fit?
Well, we were talking with John Westhoff about (Tigers pitcher) Max Scherzer, and working out his contract and John in his own way, he teases me a good bit in these processes sometimes and he goes, "You know, would Prince Fielder be interested in a one year deal?" And I said "He would...for nine years." And he laughed and we kind of went around and then when Dave and John called me on the phone the next day I suddenly realized that they wanted to know more about the process and that's really how it began.
Prince: How do you feel about the fans' reaction?
I'm excited. I'm glad people are excited for me to come here. That means a lot. When you come somewhere, especially this kind of deal you want to be welcomed and you want people to welcome you in. So I'm just glad people want me to be here and I'm happy to be here.
Dave Dombrowski, same question:
For me it's exciting. You can tell starting on Tuesday, when it leaked out I guess at the time we really weren't anticipating it. We get our ticket sale count in Lakeland (Florida, the Tigers' spring training facility), I get that ticket count on a daily basis. I got the ticket count and between 3:15 and the end of the day we had sold five times as many tickets as we usually sell on a daily basis. And we hadn't even officially announced it. Our ticket office was here Tuesday night, without an official announcement, answering the phones for season ticket orders. So it's just tremendous. We have great fans. They love the Tigers and a great club too, and we have a good club and then you add Prince to that and you can see why they're excited and the enthusiasm has been fantastic. And that's really driven by bringing a good player like that on board but what Mr. I (Mike Ilitch) has done really topped it off.
Mike Ilitch brought someone up to the mic to talk about the texts and emails he's gotten, plugged it as a barometer for excitement in community.
Jim Leyland: How excited are you to pencil Prince into the lineup, does this mean Miguel Cabrera moves to third?
Well, I'm not concerned at all. Mr. Ilitch and Dave have given me a lot of nice pieces to the puzzle, it's my job along with the coaches to figure out how to put that puzzle together and I don't think it's going to be an issue at all. Pretty nice problem to have. I think Miguel Cabrera is going to play third base, let me make that perfectly clear today. We'll start on that in spring training and I feel very comfortable with it. I think we need to shoot straight from the hip. He's not going to have the agility defensively that Brandon Inge had, but you give up a little something but you get a whole lot in return. We're going back to old-fashioned baseball: We've got big time power on the corners, and not only with Prince and Miguel, but also potentially with Brennan Boesch and Delmon Young. So putting the puzzle together isn't going to be a problem. Whenever you've got great players, it's a real nice problem to have. And everybody's already asked me about the pressure: If you can't handle it by the time you're 67 it's time to get out of the business.
My process is a little different obviously from Mr. Ilitch's and Dave's. I do have to talk to the players and I did talk to Miguel and he's 100% on board. He feels good about it. He's going to shed a little weight, I hope not too much, I think a couple of years ago he got a little too thin. So he's going to take care of that. I've also spoken to Brandon Inge, who I basically apologized to because this got out on the airwaves before we wanted it to. I'm sorry he had to hear it other than the horse's mouth but at that time I was not at any liberty to discuss it whatsoever. So I have talked with Brandon, he's not the happiest camper but he certainly understands and we try to deal with these issues as we're supposed to regarding our responsibility.
Prince: What's it going to be like having Cabrera batting near you in the lineup?
It's going to be awesome. My years in Milwaukee I had Ryan Braun as well, so it's going to be awesome to have another MVP-type player to play with, as well as the MVP and Cy Young.
Prince: Respond to rumors you didn't want to come back because of your father?
Money doesn't take care of that but as far as coming here I'm excited to be here and just looking forward to coming back where I grew up. This is going to be, like I've always said fans are really excited and I'm just glad they remembered me so I get to come back and play in front of the fans I grew up in front of. It's cool.
Prince: Do you have to change your approach for Comerica?
I'm not that good anyway, I'm glad you think I am. But you guys know me, I swing pretty hard, I'm trying to hit line drives and I think with my power I don't have to do anything different, just try to make solid contact.
Dave Dombrowski: How important is it to win now for the Tigers?
I'll speak because that falls into my responsibility. We're trying to win right now. We've got a club where we tried to win last year, we're close, I think we've reached a point now on a yearly basis we feel that way. When you look at the core of our group of players there's a lot of guys on the field right now that are quality players. We talk about Prince of course who adds to that but with Miguel, Justin Verlander the MVP we feel like we have a solid staff, a good everyday lineup so we're trying to do what we can to win. All you can do is take care of your business on a daily basis, and Jim is very good at that with our players but our ultimate goal is to win a world championship. We're not at a point where we're building. You're always aware of the future, so I don't want to downplay the future because we have some good young players coming too that are going to be contributors, but it's no secret we're trying to win a world championship.
Prince: Fondest memories from growing up in Detroit?
Coming here, pretty much every day with my dad, taking batting practice and getting thrown in trash cans by Tony Phillips and Pete Incavaglia, Tony giving me candy on the side because my dad said not to go in there, just a lot of good memories. Hopefully I can give those to my two boys because those memories have actually helped me, especially in professional baseball because I've seen how these guys I thought were superheroes were just having fun playing baseball, the same way I was having fun when I was 12. So it helped me a lot and showed me what I really wanted to do as a job. There's nothing better.
You know, I went to school here so I definitely had friends at the time but as you get older you lose contact. I can't remember the city that much, you know I remember a lot but once I get back here and start getting around I'm sure it'll all come back to me.
Prince: If Miguel Cabrera's move doesn't work out would you be willing to share time at first base?
I'm a team guy. Whatever that time comes if we have to make that decision we'll talk about it and see what happens. But as of right now I think I'm confident in Miguel doing a good job because of the fact that that's where he started out, at third base. I'm just here to win and have a good time.
Prince: How do you describe your demeanor on the field?
You'll probably see the same things you've seen on the field. I think I'm aggressive because I think that's how you have to be when you play any sport, you have to be on the attack. But yeah, expect hard baseball and aggressiveness.
Dave: What's your plan at DH?
Well, I may have to turn this over to Jim because making the lineup is his responsbility.
Well, we're going to have some versatility with it. You play a lot of things by ear. Everything that looks like it's been answered in stone doesn't always work out that way. But there will be days during the season when players have a little nagging injury where you'd like to give them a little blow but you still want their bat in the lineup. So we're gonna have tremendous flexibility with this roster, it's going to be a very fun roster to manage, and I don't think the DH is any problem. I could give you several different ways I could go today, I've written down many, many lineups already, and it's amazing because in every lineup I've written down so far, Cabrera and Fielder are in that lineup.
Jim: Are people too worried about moving Cabrera to third?
I think so. Here's what I think I have in Miguel Cabrera: I have a tremendous set of hands that could play anywhere on the infield and catch a ground ball, and I've got one of the best arms in baseball. So what you concern is because of the size of Miguel, is his athleticism going to be as good coming in on bunts, is his range going to be as good as the other third basemen, but I think when he gets himself at the weight he wants to be at I think his first step is very quick, I think his hands are absolutely tremendous, and I know for a fact his throwing arm is one of the best in baseball but it's gotten hidden at the first base position, but it is a tremendous throwing arm.
Prince: Adjustments moving to AL, pressure?
As far as the league it's going to be an adjustment just because I haven't seen all the pitchers in this league but it's still baseball in the end, so I'm confident about that part. It's all baseball, because in the minor leagues you didn't see anybody either. As for the contract, I think like Mr. Ilitch said I'm just going out there and playing hard. I think that's why the Brewers...I'm sorry...that's why the Tigers wanted me here and I wanted to be here. They see I play hard and that's what I like about the team, they play hard as well. That's all I really can do. As far as trying to live up to it with a certain statistic goal, that's out of my control. I think if I show up every day ready to play that's all I can do and play hard, I'll be happy with that.
Mike Ilitch jumped in here to say his wife was at her first press conference. There didn't seem to be a point to the story. He just wanted her to stand up and look around.
Dave: Are you satisfied with this club now or are more moves coming?
I think we're pretty well set going in. You always can be better, and that's my job. You're always trying to get better, but you're doing that within the parameters that we currently have. I think that we talked about adding a couple of veteran, non-roster pitchers to compete for the fifth spot, not guys on guaranteed contracts but someone that, if our youngsters aren't quite ready, which we think they are, but somebody that if they don't make it we can lean on. And we're still looking at that. Al Avila, with everything we've been talking about is still working hard and coming in to me almost every 10-15 minutes with an update with conversations he's had. We're still working on it. Will it happen? I'm not sure. But that is something we're looking to do. I think position player-wise we're set.
Scott: Is there a weight clause in the contract?
There was never anything about Prince's conditioning that was questioned by anyone on this club at any time. I think that was a part of the Tigers doing their due diligence and understanding who Prince Fielder is. It sounds like Mr. Ilitch was doing due diligence when Prince was 5. As far as the involvement of how the Tiger organization works, Dave and John always initially contact me and let me know they have interest in a player. The Ilitch family and Mike's involvement is something that, way back when we have a history. Mike really let me know in 2003 what he wanted to do for his family, what he wanted to do for his community and what he wanted to do for his team. And I think once I understood the passion and what it was we started with Pudge (Ivan Rodriguez) and Magglio (Ordonez) and Kenny Rogers and three years later we had a team from 119 losses to the World Series. And that type of success and that type of commitment really travels in the player community. So when players talk about the Detroit Tigers, you're not talking about something that is anything but a family business, and a family that has a goal that is a baseball goal certainly but is also a community goal. And driving that forward I think the aspect that is you can tell players when they're young that you can look at the Detroit Tigers as a candidate for you when you're a free agent. And players look at that and they look at Detroit differently.
Scott: When did you first make contact with the Tigers?
I don't know the exact date, and I was dealing with a variety of teams. I've been in free agency for a while, and the teams just kept calling for Prince. There were a number of teams that came in this process. And the reason for the process which I can now say because it was a personal matter is that Prince and Chanel (his wife) redid their vows in early January and we really couldn't begin this free agency until the 11th so we had a number of teams waiting and in order to do this we had to filter through the process and Prince had to meet everyone involved and such. But I would imagine once John and I had a conversation and Dave and I had a conversation then Mr. I and I had some conversations about his intent and what he wanted for Prince and what he felt this team was going to do. Remember, his goal ultimately was to win a world championship and certainly Prince is here because, involved in this process when you look at this lineup and you look at the opportunity to play with Miguel Cabrera, who I don't think many people know it but those of us that study the metrics know is one of the greatest players in this game. And you couple that with Prince Fielder in the middle of the lineup and you have something that's not only quality and unique today but you have something in historic quality in what production you can receive.
Boras went on for a while here. I lost the will to keep up.
I'm already over 3300 words here, so let's move some of these to the lightning round:
Jim Leyland said Fielder will hit fourth, behind Cabrera and ahead of Delmon Young.
Mike Ilitch said the team wasn't pressing, just making their best effort to get him. Then said Scott Boras knows the team better than he does. Great salesmanship, etc.
Jim Leyland said he's not considering moving Brandon Inge to other positions to get him into the lineup. They're also not planning on defensively replacing Miguel Cabrera.
Leyland said he's also not concerned about team speed. "If they hit 'em where they can hit 'em they can trot."
Jaden Fielder introduced himself to the crowd and said his new Tigers jersey is "pretty good."
Dave Dombrowski said he's free to do things he thinks makes sense for the team if he runs them by Ilitch. They have a good business operation, it's important to have that flexibility. Fielder was the only difference-maker on the market when Victor Martinez got injured. Ilitch gave him the green light to go for it. Said he didn't see a fit for Fielder at first because he didn't think they'd be willing to go long term. Didn't have any secondary plans that were close to this.