DETROIT – Home runs can be magic, and this one certainly was.
Prince Fielder hit a majestic, 460-foot solo shot off the brick wall well beyond the scoreboard in right-center field Friday night. The third-inning blast was foreshadowed by Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona while speaking to reporters before the game.
And the ball from the prodigious swat — the sixth-longest in 14 seasons at Comerica Park — became the possession of a 4-year-old boy from Monroe who couldn’t stop smiling.
Francona, a coach for Tigers manager Buddy Bell in 1996, used to throw batting practice to the son of the team’s two-time league homer champion, Cecil Fielder.
“I remember he didn’t pick up the balls,” said Francona, who smiled while recalling young Prince. “I told him, ‘No matter how far you hit them, you have to pick up the balls.’ We had a good laugh about that last spring (when Francona was working for ESPN).
“I remember thinking, no 12-year-old should be able to hit a ball that far. Now he’s 29 and I’m hoping he doesn’t do it again.”
Well, Fielder did it again a couple hours later. He crushed a pitch by Indians right-hander Corey Kluber that electrified the crowd of 37,547 and caused a commotion where it landed.
“It hit right on the 42 on the wall,” said Brad Liedel of Erie, glancing up at Jackie Robinson’s retired number. “I was going for it, but it ricocheted off the wall.
“Nobody knew where it was for an instant, but somebody yelled for the stadium attendant standing in the middle of it. The guy said, ‘It went in your pocket!’ The attendant reached in and found the ball in his pocket. It was amazing.”
Liedel’s wife, Beth, thought it hit where the brick wall and steps met. Jennifer Haynes of Madison Heights agreed that it “hit the 42” on the wall.
“And then the attendant gave it to that little boy in the blue hooded sweatshirt,” Haynes said. “He’s pretty happy about it.”
Ethan Kovenich, 4, sat in the bleacher seats with his mother, Jamie.
“This is his first game!” Jamie said. “I can’t believe something like this happened.”
Asked to display his prize, Ethan pulled it out of the pocket of his blue “Curious George” hooded sweatshirt.
Does he like it?
“Yeahhhh,” Ethan said. His eyes absolutely sparkled as he smiled.
Jamie said they’d love to get the special ball autographed but didn’t know how, so I took her e-mail address and offered to pass it along to Fielder. I mentioned the story to Fielder after the game and his eyes lit up.
“That’s nice,” Fielder said. “Real nice. I’ll definitely sign it.”
I told Prince where the ball hit, and he shook his head, grinning some more.
“It’s just a real good feeling to hit a ball as hard as you can and as perfect as you can,” he said. “To hit a round ball with a round bat and hit it squarely – it’s something. Hit a ball like that and you feel nothing on contact.”
ESPN Stats and Information estimated it would have landed 460 feet away.
Rick Thompson of the Tigers’ media relations department said both the team and the ESPN Stats figures put together a list of the seven longest homers in Comerica history.
Miguel Cabrera (June 2, 2012) and Magglio Ordonez (Sept. 25, 2007) share the longest at 466 feet. Prince is next with a 462-footer belted on Aug. 17, 2012. Then there are the 461-footers of Marcus Thames (Aug. 9, 2009) and Carlos Pena (Sept. 25, 2005).
Prince’s on Friday night equaled the longest visitor homer in park history. It was hit by none other than first-year Tiger Torii Hunter.
Moon-shot homers are remembered long after the game’s outcome is forgotten. The Tigers won, 10-4, but Ethan Kovenich probably won’t recall that years from now.
The excitement Fielder’s homer created, however, could be something he remembers until he’s old and gray. And the cute, little boy had the magic ball in his pocket as proof.