Tigers ticket sales skyrocket after Fielder signing Tigers ticket sales skyrocket after Fielder signing
When Prince Fielder was 12 years old, he was already reaching the seats with home runs at Tiger Stadium in batting practice sessions with... Tigers ticket sales skyrocket after Fielder signing

When Prince Fielder was 12 years old, he was already reaching the seats with home runs at Tiger Stadium in batting practice sessions with his dad, Tigers slugger Cecil Fielder.

Sixteen years later, Prince is back in Detroit and Tigers fans will watch Cecil’s son deposit baseballs over Comerica Park’s fences and beyond. Fielder signed one of the richest deals in baseball history on January 24, 2012, when he joined his father’s old team.

Fielder’s contract is for nine years and is worth a staggering $214 million, which is the fourth-biggest deal ever made in Major League Baseball (MLB) history. “It’s kind of a dream come true,” the newest Tiger said at his introductory press conference.

It gives Detroit a dream combination in the middle of the lineup. Tigers manager Jim Leyland said that the left-handed hitting Fielder, who has averaged 38 homers and 108 RBIs in his six years as the Milwaukee Brewers’ first baseman, will likely hit fourth behind right-handed hitting Miguel Cabrera, who will move to third base, which is where Cabrera began his career. Last year, Cabrera led the American League (AL) in hitting (.344) to go with 48 homers with 105 RBI.

Add in Cy Young Award winner and MVP Justin Verlander, who anchors the rotation, and the Tigers have helped change the landscape of the AL.

Last season, Detroit won 95 games and won the AL Central by 15 games but lost to the Texas Rangers in the AL Championship Series. With the Los Angeles Angels signing Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $250 million deal and the Rangers expected to contend again, the big-budget New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox now have company among the League’s elite.

The Tigers were late in bidding for Fielder. Detroit lost designated hitter Victor Martinez to an off-season knee injury that will likely keep him out all season. That loss stepped up the team’s pursuit of Fielder.

The buzz surrounding Fielder’s signing has been felt at the box office. Tigers team president Dave Dombrowski said at Fielder’s press conference that the night news of the deal broke, the ticket office stayed open until 8:30 p.m. Dombrowski said tickets sales for spring training games at the Tigers’ complex in Lakeland, FL, has increased five-fold.

“I think it’s going to help them,” Detroit-area ticket broker Joel Schwartz, owner of Big Time Worldwide Tickets, told TicketNews. “How could it not?”

Tigers sales at TicketsNow.com jumped 352 percent after the Fielder signing, according to Darren Rovell of CNBC. Ticket search Web site TiqIQ.com listed the lowest-priced ticket for Opening Day at Comerica against the Red Sox on April 5 at $112 for an upper level seat with a face value of $18.

“Yes, the Prince Fielder signing has definitely given ticket sales a boost,” Kurt Mensching, managing editor of the Tigers’ blog BlessYouBoys.com, told TicketNews. “Basically, the Fielder name is really important in Detroit because of how much the fans loved his father, Cecil. The outpouring of excitement over this deal has been huge — also resulting in record number of page-views on our site.”

Cecil Fielder, known as “Big Daddy,” hit 245 of his 319 career homers with the Tigers, including 51 in 1990. Cecil and Prince share the same hefty build and power at the plate, but their relationship has been strained since Prince’s early days in Milwaukee. The Fielders are the only father-son combination to reach 50 homers in a season. The younger Fielder hit 50 in 2007.

The Tigers last reached the World Series in 2006, losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in five games. The Tigers last won the World Series in 1984, the year Prince Fielder was born. Team owner Mike Illitch, who also owns Little Caesar’s Pizza and the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings, has reached into his deep pockets to try and bring another title to the Motor City.

“Our phone lines have been ringing like crazy with season ticket requests, which is exciting for all of us,” Dombrowski told the Chicago Tribune.

With $23 million due to Fielder, $21 million to Cabrera, and $20 million to Verlander, the payroll is expected to jump to the $120 million to $130 million range.

In 2011, the Tigers were 13th in MLB attendance, averaging 32,618 a game at 41,255-seat Comerica, which is an increase of 2,200 a game from 2010. The Tigers’ average ticket price of $29.32 was 12th in MLB. Ticket prices for 2012, set in December, will not go up this season.

The team Fielder left, the Brewers, is expected to surpass last year’s franchise-record attendance in 2012, team chief operating officer Rick Schlesinger told Mlb.com at the Brewers’ Fan Fest on January 29 in Milwaukee. The Brewers drew 3,071,373 people to Miller Park in 2011, which is an average of 37,918 per game (seventh in MLB).

The Brewers not only lost Fielder but could be without left fielder Ryan Braun for 50 games. The National League MVP is facing a suspension after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Despite these drawbacks, the Brewers’ chief operating officer Rick Schlesinger remains optimistic: “Our ticket sales have been tremendous,” Schlesinger said. “We are well ahead of last year, and we are expecting to have an all-time attendance record. Our numbers have been great.”