No more steaks for Fielder

No more steaks for Fielder

PHOENIX -- Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder does not look like a vegetarian. So when people find out that he's giving it a try, they have approximately the same reaction.

"I tell people I don't eat meat, and they're like, 'Oh!'" Fielder said, raising his hands and making a sour face. "They forget there's so much other food out there. Beans, rice, tofu. You've got a lot of good food, baby!"

Fielder made the decision to cut out meat after reading a bestselling book by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin with a title not fit for a family Web site. The book was given to Fielder by his wife, Chanel, who along with the couple's two kids was already on a meatless diet (though Chanel does eat fish). Fielder said it exposed to him the "gross" side of the carnivore business, and, as he first told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel for Thursday's editions, he wanted nothing to do with it.

So, a little more than two weeks ago, the burly slugger cut meat completely out of his diet. Chanel cooks a lot at home, and when Prince does stop for a bite on the road, he said he chooses a meatless taco or burrito, though he is also not particularly fond of cheese, either.

Fielder has not consulted with the Brewers' medical staff on the change, partly because his body feels so good since going meat-free.

"I really do love meat," he said. "I just had to think about whether I really wanted to keep eating it or not. Since I started, I feel amazing. When I wake up, I'm up. I'm not lying around anymore."

It's not about losing weight, insisted Fielder, who is listed in the media guide at 5-foot-11 and 270 pounds. The Brewers selected him with the seventh overall pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, and throughout his professional career his weight has been scrutinized. Club officials maintain that it's a non-issue, with manager Ned Yost saying at one point during Fielder's rookie season that he worried Fielder was spending too much time on the stationary bike.

The Brewers hope that Fielder's dietary change doesn't affect his day job. He was only 22 on Opening Day last season with one Major League season under his belt, but went on to become the youngest player in history to reach the 50-homer plateau (Willie Mays previously held that distinction) and finished third in National League MVP balloting. Fielder's finish was the best by a Brewer since Robin Yount won the American League MVP for the second time in 1989, and no Brewers player had finished in the top 10 since Paul Molitor ran 10th in 1992.

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Fielder boosted his batting average by 16 points, his walk total by 53 percent and his home run tally by 79 percent, while striking out four fewer times in 2007 than he did as a rookie in 2006.

Since news of Fielder's dietary change first appeared, fans began to suggest on Internet message boards that the Brewers should jump on the bandwagon. The team should offer a veggie sausage, they said, for those who are not into bratwurst and hot dogs.

That idea made Fielder laugh.

"I'll eat it," said Fielder.

He might be held to those words. A check with Brewers executive vice president of business operations Rick Schlesinger -- whose wife and daughter are vegetarians, by the way -- revealed that the Brewers and SportService already offer some vegetarian options at Miller Park, including soy dogs.

"We do have it, although in the top 250 items, that's probably No. 246," Schlesinger said. "We have been ahead of the curve."

The ballpark fare also includes veggie wraps, and meatless baked potatoes are being introduced in 2008. The veggie options are only available at select concession stands, so interested fans should check in with guest services for a nudge in the right direction.

Fielder doesn't mind people knowing about his new diet because he feels the attention will help pressure him to stick with it.

The same goes for his new hairstyle. Fielder reported to camp with short dreadlocks dotting the top of his head, and hopes to see them grow to mid-neck by the end of the season. Eventually, he's going for the Manny Ramirez look.

"Stay on me, guys," he told reporters. "Don't let me give it up."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.