OAKLAND -- Prince Fielder is not going to forget this one.
He'll always remember how his teammates chanted "Gloves and shoes, gloves and shoes!" when they entered the victorious locker room at the O.co Coliseum after eliminating the A's with a 6-0 win in Game 5 of the ALDS and immediately put those prized possessions away.
There's no way he cannot think about the sight of Miguel Cabrera and Octavio Dotel jumping up and down in unison in the middle of the clubhouse or Justin Verlander sprinting into the middle of the celebration with both of his hands in the air.
The odor of champagne never smelled so sweet for Fielder and the taste of victory was never so satisfying.
And nobody, not Coco Crisp, not Yoenis Cespedes, not anyone, was going to leap out and take this feeling away. Not on this night, and especially not with his sons Jadyn and Haven standing beside him.
The Triple Crown may belong to Cabrera but the night belonged to Prince and his kids in a celebration that had been almost year in the making. Last October, Fielder, the free-agent-to-be, and his Brewers teammates were eliminated in the National League Championship Series by the Cardinals in six games. The somber slugger spent the aftermath in the home clubhouse at Miller Park comforting his crying children, who knew their days in Milwaukee were over.
Fielder wasn't going to let his children miss out on Thursday's celebration. Not this time, no way. He disappeared from the winning clubhouse for five minutes and re-emerged with his two sons in tow. Both had white tank tops and baseball pants just like their daddy wears.
"That's all they've been talking about," Fielder said. "They wanted to get sprayed. I'm glad I was at least able to give them one more."
The Tigers are going to the American League Championship Series to take on the Yankees or the Orioles and Fielder is a big reason why. The slugger's statistics in the ALDS were hardly memorable -- he finished with a .190 batting average, one home run and two RBIs against the A's -- but the numbers had little significance in the winning clubhouse.
Fielder and the rest of his teammates are eight wins from celebrating a World Series title and that's the only thing that matters. Winning a ring is part of the reason he signed the nine-year, $214 million deal with the Tigers in the first place. Playing with Verlander and Cabrera also played a role in his decision to go to Detroit.
"Prince has been outstanding for us. He's been a premium hitter as advertised in the middle of the lineup," Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "He's a guy that drives in runs and plays every day. We have the best 3-4 combo, left-handed and right-handed, in baseball and he's everything we could have expected."
Fielder drove in a run to extend the lead to 5-0 in the game-changing four-run seventh inning Thursday. He also hit a home run in Wednesday's 4-3 loss in Game 4 and was robbed of at least two base hits because of spectacular catches by Crisp and Cespedes on Tuesday in Game 3.
He couldn't contain his joy Thursday night. He didn't have to.
"It means a lot," Fielder said. "I'm just happy to be here, going to the next round and have a chance to keep going."
Last season, the Fielder-less Tigers were eliminated by the Rangers in the ALCS in six games. Detroit has not won a World Series since 1984, but maybe this is the Tigers' year.
Fielder believes there is something special about this team. He feels like he's been with Detroit for years.
"When I first got here and you see the Triple Crown winner come up to you and say, 'Hi,' the first day and he's happy to see you, it makes you feel comfortable right way," Fielder said. "Miguel and Justin, the two biggest guys on the team welcomed me right away and once the cool kids in school like you, it's easy to get along."
In some ways, it's almost like being with family.