It’s strange to write that someone who’s made well over $200 million playing a game can be a tragic figure, but that word feels oddly fitting to describe Prince Fielder as his career comes to a sudden end. Fielder announced earlier this week that he was informed by doctors following his second spinal fusion surgery in three seasons that he will no longer be able to play baseball.
The slugger, who was as known for his violent swing and…robust physique as for his production in the batter’s box, was one of baseball’s most consistently healthy players until neck trouble robbed him of the 2014 season. However, he overcame that first surgery to win 2015’s comeback player of the year award and it looked for a time like his career was back on track. Sadly, his numbers began declining after the all-star break last season and he put up some of the worst production in baseball for much of this year. Looking back, it’s clear that the brilliant recovery and the hope it generated were merely the final breaths of what very well might have been a hall-of-fame caliber career.
So, when a hurting yet resolute Fielder walked to the podium in Arlington with his two sons, Jadyn and Haven, to formally announce that his time playing the game that he loves has come to a close, it quickly got emotional for everyone involved. Fielder visibly fought back tears as he thanked his teammates, family, and the organizations for whom he’s played while those in attendance tried hard to do the same.
Prince recognized, however, that life has to move on, even if he’s not quite sure how to do that. You see, his dad, Cecil, was also a major league ballplayer (who, in a strange twist of fate, ended his career with the same number of homeruns as his son), and Prince grew up in a major league clubhouse. In the same way, his boys have been a fixture in Arlington since their dad was first traded to the Rangers three years ago. For the Fielders, baseball is much more than a game. It’s really the only life they know. Prince acknowledged as much when he described his teammates, each of whom was in attendance along with the coaches and staff, as “part of my family. We’ve got four at home and twenty-five here.”
That sense of community, more than anything else, is what Fielder is likely to miss the most. Because baseball contracts are guaranteed, he’ll still get every penny of the $96 million he’s still owed, but it’s difficult to put a price on the kind of purpose and sense of belonging that comes from knowing that you’re doing what God put you on this earth to do.
I don’t know if Prince Fielder is a Christian, but navigating times of transition—especially when they come as abruptly and unexpectedly as this—are difficult for anyone. Yet, they also present us with an important opportunity, if we’re willing to accept it. God can do truly amazing things in those moments when we have little choice but to sink or cry out for him (Matthew 14:22–33). It’s often then that he reveals himself most fully because it’s often only then that we are truly open to such a revelation.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. God longs for us to know him completely and offers us the chance to do so whenever we desire. However, he specializes in using moments of doubt and angst to clear away the distractions we place between him and us. I truly believe that’s part of his plan to redeem Prince Fielder’s current situation, but I believe just as strongly that he wants to do the same for each of us.
Think about the kind of witness it would be to a watching world if, as Christians, our moments of doubt and hardship were the times we most exuded the presence and power of our Lord. God wants to use those times to draw both us and those around us closer to him. Will you let him?