A birthday tradition: Treasured memories of watching the Brewers with family
By Marv Kohlbeck
Knowing that I love baseball, my family members have made plans to treat me to a Milwaukee Brewer game to celebrate my 85th birthday on Aug. 27.
I do not know if a similar celebration of my 78th birthday in 2009 could be duplicated or bettered. On that Aug. 27 date, we decided to purchase tickets for bleacher seats in right field with the feeling that during batting practice we might be able to retrieve some home run balls for the younger children in our family group. For some unknown reason, the other team did not hold batting practice, so that fringe benefit was scratched.
In all the years that I have attended ball games in Milwaukee, I was able to claim only one batting practice home run ball. It was hit by Todd Helton, former slugger for the Colorado Rockies — one lousy souvenir for the many games I have seen over the past 50-plus years.
The Brewers got off to a rousing start in the first inning of that 2009 game when all-star home run slugger Prince Fielder launched a 365-foot home run ball to our bleacher area. The ball landed in the aisle next to where my daughter Jennifer was sitting. She went after it “like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs” and came up screaming and jumping with the ball in her hand.
With tears in her eyes, she scampered over to my seat, handed me the ball, and said, “Happy birthday, Dad.” That brought tears to my eyes too. I cherish the memento and that the family was together on my birthday despite a Brewers loss.
I figured that possession of the ball would be more meaningful if Fielder would continue his home run hitting power. The label I have on the display case of the ball indicates that it was his 149th home run in the less than four years he had been playing with the Brewers. I also know that his father, Cecil Fielder, holds the record of hitting the longest home run at Milwaukee County Stadium. Along with other Brewer fans, I too figured that some day Prince Fielder would be honored with Hank Aaron as the team’s top home run hitters.
In 2011 he had a change of scenery and signed with the Detroit Tigers and then in 2013 was traded to the Texas Rangers. Medical problems began to set in, and following a few operations on his neck, he has decided to retire.
During nearly 12 years of his professional baseball career, records show that Prince Fielder has accumulated 319 home runs and earned a playing salary of over $128 million. All I have to show for it is a smudged home run ball.
In the upcoming game I might have to cheer for Ryan Braun, the next Brewer player that could pass Prince Fielder’s records.