- Associated Press - Thursday, January 26, 2012

DETROIT (AP) - Prince Fielder stood with a smile and recalled his earliest memories of old Tiger Stadium, when he would hang out at the ballpark where his father hit so many massive home runs.

“For me, it was always Sparky saying I was going to pinch hit _ and I really believed him,” Fielder said, referring to former manager Sparky Anderson. “I’m just glad I get to come back.”

The Tigers introduced Fielder on Thursday after finalizing a $214 million, nine-year contract with the free agent first baseman, who is expected to hit a lot more home runs than his dad.

Fielder was born in 1984, the last time Detroit won the World Series. After luring him back to Michigan with the fourth-largest deal in baseball history, the Tigers are hoping Fielder will help usher in a new championship era for the Motor City.

“This is awesome,” Fielder said. “It’s kind of a dream come true. I’m excited.”

Detroit began seriously pursuing Fielder after designated hitter Victor Martinez tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during offseason conditioning. Now the Tigers have three of baseball’s biggest stars _ Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander _ all in their primes. Detroit won the AL Central by 15 games last year but lost to Texas in the AL championship series.

“We’re trying to win right now,” general manager Dave Dombrowski said. “We tried to win last year. We were 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 that are on that field right now that are quality players.”

It will be up to manager Jim Leyland to figure out where to play all of his powerful hitters. He said Thursday the Tigers will move Miguel Cabrera from first base to third to make room for Fielder. He also listed a possible batting order, with Cabrera hitting third and Fielder fourth.

It’s a lineup based on power, not speed. That much is clear.

“If they hit it where they’re supposed to hit `em, they can trot,” Leyland said. “We’re going back to the old-fashioned baseball. We’ve got big-time power on the corners.”

Fielder’s father Cecil became a big league star when he returned to the majors from Japan and hit 51 home runs with Detroit in 1990. Cecil played with the Tigers into the 1996 season, and young Prince made a name for himself with his prodigious power displays during batting practice at Tiger Stadium.

Detroit plays at Comerica Park now, and times have changed. Leyland manages the Tigers, not Sparky Anderson.

As for the Fielders, their strained relationship has been well documented, and Prince didn’t elaborate on it Thursday.

“I’m just ecstatic about being with the Tigers,” Prince Fielder said. “I’m just here to enjoy the day.”

Fielder did want to debunk one thing: Back in 2008, he talked about becoming a vegetarian, but that apparently didn’t last long after all the commotion.

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