NEW YORK -- This might be the only time Prince Fielder enters any baseball competition as a leadoff hitter. Once he finished his swings in Monday night's Chevrolet Home Run Derby, totaling five home runs, it was a merciless wait to see if he advanced.
He did not have to wait long. Once first-time Derby contestants Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Cuddyer, Pedro Alvarez and Chris Davis followed him with better opening rounds, Fielder went from looking to match Ken Griffey Jr. with three Derby crowns to an early exit at Citi Field, the first slugger eliminated from the competition.
The Tigers first baseman still hopes to get a third crown. This year just wasn't the year.
"Yeah, it would be cool," Fielder admitted.
Fielder said after the event that neither the summer heat nor the ballpark dimensions were a factor for him.
"It was good," Fielder said.
From his first two swings, Fielder seemingly was on his way to an encore of last year's winning performance in Kansas City with the same pitcher, former Brewers Triple-A manager Sandy Guerrero.
Guerrero has pitched to Fielder each time he has taken part in the annual All-Star tradition. He was arguably his good luck charm when he won in 2009, so he has brought him back each time, including the last two times as a Tiger. It's also a way for Fielder to repay him for the work he put in to make him a Major League hitter on his way up.
"I mean, obviously I've had him before," Fielder said. "I'm comfortable with him throwing to me in the Derby. He's a good friend as well, you know. He's really helped me a lot."
Fielder's first swing Monday took a ball out 379 feet to right field, followed by a 483-foot launch into the upper deck, one of the longest drives of the opening round. From there, however, he went into a relative power outage, flying out twice to right before getting a 363-foot drive over the fence.
Four consecutive outs followed, Fielder struggling to get the ball into the hot, humid New York air with enough power to clear the fences. He pulled everything, but powered nothing, lining one pitch foul into the seats down the right-field line.
It followed his regular-season history at Citi Field from his days with the Milwaukee Brewers. He hit one home run in 10 career games here, batting .250 (9-for-36). The Tigers, fittingly, will return for a three-game series against the Mets in August.
A 370-foot drive ended his drought, but a line drive into the gap in right-center field started another one. Once his liner to the right-field corner fell just short of the fence, he was down to his final out.
He made a rally, launching a ball off the canopy near the concourse in right-center field, but his final drive died in the depths of center field.
Instead of a repeat of last year's crown, Fielder's attempt to defend his crown ended up more like his first Derby in 2007, when he hit just three homers out of AT&T Park in San Francisco to finish tied for sixth.
His eight-year-old son, Jadyn, seemed to have a better time watching from the American League dugout. They watched together as Prince's total fell further down the standings.
That was fine for them. His kids' enjoyment is the main reason he keeps taking part.
"That's what makes me feel good, to see them smiling," Fielder said.
Oakland's Yoenis Cespedes hit nine homers in the final round to beat Washington's Bryce Harper, who hit eight.