Emotional Rangers heap praise on Prince

Emotional Rangers heap praise on Prince

ARLINGTON -- Prince Fielder's impact on the Rangers was on display on Wednesday during his emotional news conference, during which he announced that his 12-year career had come to an end due to multiple neck surgeries.

Rangers players, coaches, front-office members and other personnel were all in attendance as Fielder fought back tears with his two sons, Jadyn and Haven, and agent Scott Boras by his side.

He wasn't the only one fighting back emotions.

"It was tough, man. I was holding back tears the whole time," Ian Desmond said. "To go out there like Prince has done his whole career and compete on a daily basis at an extremely high level shows his love for the game."

Prince announces end of playing career

"It's an emotional day for the entire baseball community; emotional day all around," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "He's a teammate, that's what he is. I think the highest praise that I can give him is that he's our teammate. He's as important to this organization and this fanbase as the players that are on the field right now."

Nobody on the Rangers was as close to Fielder -- at least in terms of clubhouse proximity -- than first baseman Mitch Moreland. Their lockers were right next to each other, and it was not uncommon after games to see Fielder and Moreland high-fiving each other's children.

"Half the time they had their shoes in my locker. They were out here a lot, out here having fun," Moreland said of Fielder's sons. "They put a smile on everybody's face. They loved it just as much as he did, so it's kind of getting taken away from them as well."

Last season, Fielder gave way to Moreland at first base to improve the Rangers' defense, a move that strengthened what was already a tight bond between the two.

"I'm in debt to him, for sure," Moreland said. "What he's meant to me and my family, that's just helped me that much more. It just shows how selfless he is and how much of a team player and how much of a leader he was in here."

Fielder spent just three seasons of his illustrious career with the Rangers, most of them interrupted by the multiple neck injuries. But it was important to his teammates to stand by him during the difficult announcement.

"He's one of our brothers. He always will be, regardless if he's playing or not," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "We wanted to take care of him. We support everybody in this clubhouse like they're family."

Several Rangers spoke about how a sudden injury such as Fielder's can put things into perspective for their own careers. If anybody can value his health, it's third baseman Adrian Beltre, who has routinely cited his health as the reason he's on the doorstep of 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.

"You can be playing 100 percent today, and tomorrow you can have an injury that won't let you play anymore," Beltre said. "That's why I try to do my best every day and not take this game for granted. It was sad. We're going to miss him as teammates."

Prior to joining the Rangers, Fielder spent two years with the Tigers and seven with the Brewers. His charismatic attitude and titanic home runs made him a fan favorite, and a favorite in the clubhouse, on all three stops of his career.

"He's been a great player. He's a great ambassador for the game, and I've really enjoyed my time with him," Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander said. "You never want to see a player end his career that way, when it's not his decision."

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has a different kind of relationship with Fielder. He played with his father, Cecil, with the Tigers in 1996 and saw Prince's power on display at an early age.

"He hit the ball farther than me, and I was almost 20 years older than him," Ausmus said. "That's what stood out."

Recently acquired Carlos Beltran will never have the chance to play with Fielder, but what he's heard from his new Rangers teammates gave him an idea of the person he was off the field.

"The guys talk about having him here and in the clubhouse and how he was a great asset to the ballclub," Beltran said. "It's sad for everyone, and for himself, that he's not able to be a part of this ballclub any more and for the friendships that he's developed the years he spent here."

Ryan Posner is a reporter for MLB.com based in Texas. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.