OGDEN — It was a smashing debut.
A few years before he was an all-star first baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers, Prince Fielder had to work his way through the minor leagues like any other Major League Baseball draft pick.
As fans at Lindquist Field in downtown Ogden learned on June 19, 2002, Fielder wasn't like any other draft pick.
In his first game in a Raptor uniform — which came two days after the Brewers had given Fielder a $2 million signing bonus — Fielder displayed the power that baseball enthusiasts easily recognize from the nightly national highlight shows.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, with Ogden trailing Idaho Falls in his debut game, Fielder crushed an opposite-field grand slam over the scoreboard in left field at Lindquist Field. The blast tied the game at 9-9, and the Raptors went on to win 12-9 in 10 innings thanks to a three-run home run by Mario Mendez.
"It was a pretty good moment," said Ogden resident and die-hard Raptors fan Randy Johnson, who added that he was sitting five seats away from Cecil Fielder, Prince's father, during Prince's debut night in Ogden.
There's a long and rich history of minor league baseball in Ogden. The first minor league team in city history was the Ogden Reds, affiliated with Cincinnati. The team played at John Affleck Park and competed in the Pioneer League from 1946-55. Ogden then had the Dodgers from 1966-73 and the Spikers in 1974 before the franchise was relocated and renamed the Lethbridge Expos.
The Ogden A's returned baseball to the area in 1979 and played in the Pacific Coast League. The affiliation only lasted two seasons, and baseball didn't return to Ogden until the Raptors were created in 1994. They were an independent team for three seasons before moving into brand new Lindquist Field and picking up an affiliation with the Milwaukee Brewers.
There have been many memorable moments in Ogden baseball history and at three different ballparks — John Affleck Park, Serge Simmons Field and Lindquist Field. The Dodgers won four straight Pioneer League championships in the late '60s with Tommy Lasorda managing them to three of the titles. The venues also hosted other events such as the Utah all-star baseball game at John Affleck Park, and various state soccer and baseball tournaments taking place at Lindquist Field.
But if there's one signature moment in Ogden sports history, Fielder's grand slam stands out above the rest. He was the highly touted No. 1 pick (seventh player selected overall) of the Brewers and the son of a former MLB all-star. It was a treat for Ogden fans to see a can't-miss prospect on a nightly basis.
"That was quite an experience to see him," said longtime Raptors fan Bud Jackson, who was one of the 4,864 fans at Lindquist Field that saw the 18-year-old Fielder's professional debut.
"You hope by getting a guy you draft No. 1 that he's going to be an impact player," then-Ogden manager Tim Blackwell said at the time. "Well, based on what happened tonight, he certainly made an impact."
Fielder was 1-for-3 with an infield hit, walk and strikeout before his ninth inning at-bat. He arrived in Ogden the day of the game, playing first base and batting cleanup. His grand slam against Idaho Falls is memorable not only because it tied the game but also because of the distance traveled. Clearing the scoreboard in left field is no small feat, and especially from the left side of the plate.
"I was a little anxious and nervous (to start the game), then coach told me to try and hit to center field," Fielder said shortly after hitting the grand slam. "I was just hoping to hit the ball hard somewhere. This is a dream come true right here."
Fielder has obviously moved on to bigger and better things since his days in Ogden. He was named to the National League all-star team in 2007. In January, he agreed to a two-year contract with the Brewers for $18 million.
Ogden fans have also moved on, as they've continued to support their Raptors since the team's inception in 1994.
They've seen current Brewers such as Fielder, J.J. Hardy, Bill Hall and Corey Hart make their way through Ogden. The franchise switched its affiliation to the Dodgers in 2003, and have seen talents such as starting pitcher Chad Billingsley and catcher Russell Martin begin their pro careers.
"A whole bunch of them went through here," Jackson said.
And none bigger than Fielder.
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