DETROIT — Prince Fielder grew up in a privileged household, but his attitude is more reflective of the working-class people of Detroit who pay to watch him play.
He’s rarely taken a day off since coming into the league with Milwaukee in 2006.
He played in 157 games in his first full season in the majors. In the five seasons after that, he sat out a total of eight games.
Fielder played in every game in 2012, his first year with the Tigers, all 162 during the regular season and 13 more in the playoffs.
So when Fielder was asked recently about potentially playing in this year’s World Baseball Classic, he had an interesting answer — one that’s sure to make Tigers fans happy.
“I did (have interest), but just for me,” he said. “I play every day, so it’s hard, man. It’s really hard to do that.
“I’m starting to feel little aches and pains here and there, so I don’t know. It seems like a great honor to do it, but I think I really owe it to the Tigers to be ready for the season.”
Tigers manager Jim Leyland constantly checks in with his players to make sure they feel OK, and he’s known for giving them a day off if he thinks they need one.
But Fielder is adamant about staying in the lineup “because that’s what they pay me for,” he said. “I don’t like watching my team play and not playing if I’m OK to play.
“It’s kind of like if you left the iron on, you know what I mean? It’s a terrible feeling for me. For me, I just don’t like it, so I’d rather play.”
It’s a refreshing attitude for a multimillionaire — that he expects to work every day, takes time off only when the schedule allows.
Only once during his major-league career did Fielder’s father, Cecil, play all 162 games in a season. That was with the Tigers in 1991, when he was 27 years old.
Prince Fielder is 28 and already has three seasons of perfect attendance (2009, 2011 and 2012) and missed just one game in 2010.
He’s also determined to be in the lineup at first base rather than designated hitter. Fielder played 159 games at first last season and just three as the DH, probably because Leyland told him “to get him off his feet” a bit.
In Fielder’s mind, though, that’s what the offseason’s for, especially after playing almost into November last year.
“I like to take all those days off,” Fielder said. “That was the longest season I ever played in, so when I got home, I was just trying to relax a little bit.”
Fielder said his role as a father didn’t allow him to dwell on getting swept by the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.
“After you lose, fortunately, I have to be an adult,” he said. “I have two boys, so if I sit at home and be poopy-pants for days, it’s not a good example.
“Once the game was over, obviously, you’re hurt you lost, but you gotta be a man about it. If you wake up in the morning, you’ve got to be a dad.”
And you’ve got to stay motivated to get through a grueling baseball season. That’s not a problem for Fielder, whose motivation hasn’t changed since his career started.
“It’s the same because I still haven’t won yet,” he said. “So it’s the same motivation as I’ve had before. The motivation is to win a World Series.
“If we win one this year, then I’ll have to see if my motivation changes.”
One thing that won’t change in 2013: If the Tigers are playing, Fielder will be out there.
“It’s not broke, you can play,” Fielder said. “If you’re injured, I get it. If you can grip the bat and swing, you should be all right.”