Dreams of Fields

Hey guys, thought you might like to see this story I wrote about Daniel Fields for the University of Detroit Jesuit High School alumni magazine:
Dreams of Fields
By Tom Hagerty ‘72

Daniel Fields has big dreams: “I want to win a Gold Glove, make the All Star team and spend my whole career with the Detroit Tigers.”
While most of his former classmates finish their freshman year of college, Fields, a 2009 graduate of U of D Jesuit, plays center field for the Lakeland Flying Tigers, Detroit’s minor-league team in the advanced Single A Florida State League. In less than a year, he went from U of D Jesuit to spring training, where he practiced with Tiger stars like Justin Verlander, Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera.
For Fields, baseball runs in the family. His father, Bruce, played for the Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners. Since his playing days ended, he has held various coaching jobs in the Tigers organization and now serves as minor league hitting coordinator for the Cleveland Indians.
“Playing professional baseball has always been my dream,” says Fields. “I hung around my dad’s teams ever since I was six years old. When I was about 12 years old I started thinking I could actually do it.”
Fields enjoyed a stellar playing career at U of D Jesuit, and he credits baseball coach Al Fernandez for his dedication. “He was always there for me,” says Fields.
Named Michigan’s Mr. Baseball during his senior year, Fields received an offer to attend University of Michigan on a baseball scholarship. When the Tigers drafted him, however, he decided to sign with his hometown team.
“To sign or not to sign was a very tough decision,” he says. “I didn’t decide until a few hours before the deadline. Now I’m confident I made the best decision. I might not have signed with any other team, but the Tigers are definitely an exception.”
What goes through his mind when he imagines himself playing his first game for the Tigers at Comerica Park?
“That would be unbelievable,” he says with a big smile. “I can’t even imagine it. I know I’d have lots of family and friends cheering for me, and it would certainly be emotional. I definitely look forward to it. Playing for Detroit is a dream of mine. It’s important for me to represent my school, the city of Detroit and where I’ve come from.”
Fields says his older brother, Aaron, influenced his decision to attend U of D Jesuit. “When Aaron went there I fell in love with the place and wanted to go, too. Aaron always said it was a great school. I liked how the students all got along, and I loved the excitement at the sporting events.”
According to Fields, his Jesuit education played a key role in his development.
“U of D Jesuit made me more mature. The lessons I learned there helped me deal with the decision to sign with the Tigers. I know I had the academic background to do well in college, so I would’ve been fine either going to U of M or signing with the Tigers. I have no second thoughts.”

After graduating and signing with the Tigers, Fields reported to Lakeland, Fla., to play in the Florida Instructional League. There he experienced the thrill of wearing a Tigers uniform for the first time as a pro.
“I was used to putting on Tigers jerseys as a kid,” he says, “but the first time I actually put one on and played a game was very exciting.”
The biggest difference between high school and pro baseball, says Fields, is the speed of the game. “Not only the pitching but also the pace of the game. And the players are bigger, faster and stronger.”
But Fields knows about strength and speed. Baseball America rated him the best athlete and fastest base runner in the Tigers’ minor league system.
Fields played shortstop in high school. In spring training, however, the Tigers asked him to learn a new position, center field.
“That took some getting used to,” he says, “but now I feel very comfortable in center.
“I also hit the ball well and had a good spring. I was a little nervous at first, but I felt more comfortable as time went on. The Tigers’ veterans are awesome. They’re always talking to you and making you feel at home.”
High school and college players often struggle when they turn pro and switch from the livelier metal bats to wooden ones. Fields, however, has had no trouble making the transition.
“I used metal bats in high-school games,” he says, “but my father always had me hit with wood in practice, so it’s no big deal.”
Apparently not. In his first seven games with the Flying Tigers, Fields hit .308 with three runs batted in and three runs scored. He also walked three times and stole three bases while playing flawlessly in center field.
While Fields has grown comfortable at bat and in the field, he’s still adjusting to fans asking him to sign autographs or pose for photos.
“I think it’s funny,” he says. “I laugh to myself when it happens because it’s hard to see myself doing it. I guess I’m just not used to it yet.”
On a typical day, Fields arrives at Joker Marchant Stadium at 2 p.m. for a 7 p.m. game.
“I love it because I can sleep until noon,” he says with a laugh.
His pregame routine includes lifting weights, hitting in the batting cage, and taking fielding and batting practice with the team. Before a game he’ll stretch and throw in the outfield with his teammates.
Right now, he can’t imagine doing anything else. “I love this game” he says, breaking into a huge smile.
Although he finds himself hundreds of miles from Detroit, Fields stays close to his family.
My family is a big influence on me,” he says. “They’ve been there for me since day one. They helped me with the decision to sign with the Tigers. I talk to them every day after a game. If I have a good game they congratulate me. If I struggled they say, “Go get ‘em tomorrow.’ They’re always there for me. I love my family”
While working hard to establish himself as a pro baseball player, Fields also devotes time to his spiritual life.
“I pray a lot,” he says, “and U of D Jesuit strongly influenced me in that area. One major thing I took from there was St. Ignatius. When we graduated we received St. Ignatius necklaces, and I don’t think I took mine off until Christmas time. We studied him a lot in religion classes, and I say the prayer of St. Ignatius. As you get older you focus more on prayer. I still say that prayer, and I know I’ll say it from now on.”
On a firm foundation of faith and family, Daniel Fields stands poised to make his dreams come true.

1 comment:

  1. Great piece, Tom! And congrats to U of D and Field's parents. We'll look for him in "The Bigs" soon, but something tells me he will be a success at whatever he pursues.