MILWAUKEE -- This time a year ago, Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder had no idea what he was up against. It seemed almost certain at times he had played his last game as a Brewer and could be traded any day.
But Fielder weathered the storm of uncertainty and the Brewers decide to hang on to him while adding a pair of ace starting pitchers to the fold and making a run for it all.
Once again this year, Fielder's future after the season is uncertain, as he could depart Milwaukee as a free agent, but this time around the Brewers are in the playoffs and Fielder hopes to help bring the city and his teammates a championship before his potential departure.
"Not so much that, as far as it could be my final year, (but) just because it would be great for the city," Fielder said Friday as the Brewers prepared to meet the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL Division Series. "To do something like that would be special. For the city, for the organization, plus my teammates. I've been with these guys for my whole career. I kind of grew up with everybody here.
"I just want to try to get a ring and get (Ryan Braun) a ring to go with the MVP trophy."
Fielder's prediction about his fellow MVP candidate and teammate of five seasons demonstrated his desire to see his friends succeed on the team he has helped lead since arriving in the majors in 2005. After seven seasons and 230 home runs with Milwaukee, Fielder could be enjoying his last days in the city that has embraced him.
The first baseman said in a mid-September interview with TBS that it is "probably the last year" he'd play in Milwaukee. Many decried the timing of his honesty, but the three-time all-star insisted his stance was nothing new.
If this is to be his last year in a Brewers uniform, though, Fielder wants it to be special. It already has been in many ways, as he was a chief reason Milwaukee captured its first division title in 29 years. Bringing the city its first World Series title would make the year exponentially better.
"It would be awesome," Fielder said. "You always want to go out with a bang. It would be perfect for me. It would be probably the best year ever."
Despite better statistical finishes in previous seasons, Fielder says this has been easily his best season as a major leaguer because of the team's NL Central crown. Personal achievements are nice, Fielder said after a three-home run game last week, but "when you're going home in October it's not that big of a deal."
Though he treasures the team's success, Fielder has also achieved plenty as an individual in 2011, creating special memories for a die-hard Milwaukee fan base. To him and probably most fans the best one came at the All-Star Game in Phoenix when he won the MVP award after leading the NL team to victory with a towering three-run homer. The honor was particularly significant for Fielder because he was able to enjoy the experience with his two sons, Jadyn and Haven.
"That was special," Fielder said last week. "I might not ever get to do that ever again."
At just 27 years old, Fielder seems certain to make many more all-star appearances, with or without additional honors. He just might be doing it in different colors.
Braun, whose presence has meant so much to Fielder's success and vice versa, said Friday that general manager Doug Melvin's best offseason move was hanging onto Fielder and keeping together a home-grown core that also includes right fielder Corey Hart and second baseman Rickie Weeks.
"There's no question in my mind that we're not where we are today without Prince being in the lineup every single day," Braun said. "Without a doubt, he's one of the best players in the game. He's one of our leaders and he plays every day.
"I think he really helps to sets the tone in the locker room (and) on the field just with the energy he brings every day and obviously with the production he has as a player on the field."
Fielder played all 162 regular-season games for the Brewers this season and has missed just 13 since the start of the 2006 season. How many he has left remains to be seen, but if his days in Milwaukee are indeed numbered, he's determined to give as much as he can back to a city and a fan base that has supported him for so long. He could give no greater gift than a World Series title.