Fielder named NL top player for May
Slugging first baseman clubs 13 homers during month
Perhaps the most surprising story in baseball this season is the incredible turnaround by the Milwaukee Brewers. The team holds a commanding 6 1/2-game lead in the National League Central in early June.
While the team has had numerous contributions up and down the lineup, the biggest catalyst -- figuratively and literally -- has consistently been third-year cleanup hitter Prince Fielder. The first baseman raised his game to a new level in May, batting .321 for the month with 13 home runs and 28 RBI, leading to his selection as the Sharp Presents the National League Player of the Month.
Entering play Monday, Fielder ranked first in the NL in home runs with 19, second in slugging percentage (.621), and third in RBIs (44) and OPS (.998), helping the Brewers maintain their huge lead in the division. He's the first Milwaukee player in eight years to win the award.
"I think my wife and kids enjoy it more than I do," Fielder said of the award. "Don't get me wrong, the awards are great, but I don't really pay attention to them. Maybe after the season I will. I don't like to think about that stuff too much because I still have to come out here today, do something today. After it's all done, I will be able to appreciate it more. I'll be able to brag to my son about it."
Fielder was told before the game that he would get a high-definition television for winning the monthly award, and said he would put it in one of his young son's bedrooms. Later, he found out it was a 52-inch HDTV.
"That might have to go in my room," Fielder said with a grin. "I didn't realize it was that big."
The first baseman has continually improved since his 2005 debut, and is now one of the most feared power hitters in the game.
"You could see it pretty early, that he was special," Brewers manager Ned Yost said of Fielder. "But he's special, like [teammates] Rickie [Weeks] and J.J. [Hardy] and Corey Hart. They've got a different makeup. They are very talented players, but the thing that impresses me most is that they can handle adversity very, very well. That's a tough thing for a young player to be able to do."
One such scenario of adversity took place in the latter stages of the month, when the Brewers encountered their first slump, losing 14 of 19 games. But in the month's final three games, Fielder homered in each to help the Brewers to win two, allowing them to regain momentum. As of Monday, they had won four of six. And for Fielder, that team success is earning him the national recognition.
"We knew what we had in Prince, and I think the rest of the league is starting to understand who he is and what he is," Yost said. "He's a pretty special player.
"There's not a lot of guys in this league or in baseball that really intimidate you. Gary Sheffield was one. Barry Bonds was always one. Derrek Lee is one. [Albert] Pujols is definitely one. And I think that when it's all said and done, Prince is going to be one of those guys. Opposing managers are going to be looking to see, 'When is Prince Fielder coming up?'"
Other players receiving votes were Fielder's Milwaukee teammate Hardy, who hit .325 with nine home runs; Cincinnati's right fielder Ken Griffey Jr., who hit .306 with 10 home runs; Houston's left fielder Carlos Lee, who hit .376 with five home runs and 26 RBI; and shortstop Rafael Furcal of the Dodgers, who hit .371 with 39 base hits.
Ben DuBose is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.