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07/08/07 6:33 PM ET
All systems go for Fielder in Derby
Slugger confident after asking former Minors coach to pitch
By Adam McCalvy and Jeremy Anders / MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- Actually performing in the State Farm Home Run Derby will be the easy part for Brewers slugger Prince Fielder. Finding someone to pitch was tough.
Ultimately, the choice was Class A West Virginia manager Mike Guerrero, who was Fielder's hitting coach at Class A Beloit in 2003 when Fielder won league MVP honors. Guerrero will take two days off from managing the Power to work with Fielder at the event, set for Monday night in San Francisco.
Guerrero told the Charleston Daily Mail that the honor was "a blessing from heaven."
"My job is to serve up those steaks right there," Guerrero told the newspaper, holding his right hand waist high.
Fielder's top choice was Brewers bench coach Dale Sveum, who threw to Boston's David Ortiz and Texas' Mark Texiera in the 2005 Derby. But Sveum already had plans to spend the All-Star break in Phoenix with his family.
Sveum said Fielder then tabbed Triple-A Nashville manager Frank Kremblas, who was Fielder's manager at Double-A Huntsville in 2005 and at Nashville in 2005. But Kremblas had to bow out after a death in his family.
"I would love to do it," said Sveum, who would have been pitching in front of a hometown crowd in San Francisco. "If I saw my family every day, I would do it. And if I hadn't done a Derby before, maybe I would do it."
Fielder hit two home runs on Saturday night to tie the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez for the Major League lead with 29, although Rodriguez hit his 30th on Sunday. Brewers hitters sometimes play home run derby during the final round of batting practice, and Fielder headed to San Francisco with a simple strategy.
"Just try to hit the ball high and far," he said. "I'm going to have fun. My wife and kids will be there, so hopefully I'll bring my kids down [to the field]."
Fielder became friends with former Brewer Carlos Lee, who took part in 2005 and suffered a power outage in the second half. Lee hit 22 home runs with 76 RBIs before the Derby, then hit 10 home runs with 38 RBIs in 60 fewer at-bats after and said he would pass on the event if asked in the future.
Fielder predicted no such drop-off.
"I don't think it can mess you up that much because we do it in BP anyway," Fielder said. "I don't think it's going to mess up my swing at all."
His father, Cecil, participated three times when he was an All-Star in 1990, 1991 and 1993. Prince was there twice and said that experience -- and the chance to share it with his own children -- is one of the things that made him decide to participate himself.
"It'll be great to do that with all the other guys that'll be in it, and it'll be pretty awesome for my kids, too," Fielder said. "I always thought it was pretty cool; it was probably the only part of the games I ever watched. The Home Run Derby was such a cool thing for me as a kid that I thought it would be cool to watch and hopefully participate in."
Now that he is participating, Fielder isn't putting any pressure on himself to come out on top.
"I don't really care if I win, I just want to hit one," Fielder said. "I don't want to go home with a goose egg, [but] I'm pretty sure I can just hit one."
That shouldn't be a problem based on his sweeping success so far in the Major Leagues. Fielder set a club record for home runs in a month with 13 in May and is likely to become the 25th Brewer to hit 30 or more home runs in a season.
He is on pace to shatter the Brewers single-season home run record of 45 held by Gorman Thomas and Richie Sexson.
His manager, Ned Yost, said he was glad to see Fielder in the Home Run Derby and had just one piece of advice.
"All I'm going to tell him is, 'Go have a blast,'" Yost said.