So for the people who aren’t diehard sports fans (or even kind-of, sort-of sports fans) let me quickly catch you up to speed: Prince Fielder is a baseball player, and NOT just any baseball player, the Texas Rangers first baseman is the youngest athlete in Major League Baseball to hit 50 home runs in a single season and is the proud winner of both the 2009 and the 2012 Home Run Derby.
The already whoa-accomplished athlete can now add “body positivity role model” to his resume. Fielder recently posed as the cover man for ESPN Magazine’s Body Issue, gracing the cover without a stitch of clothing (just a LOT of tattoos and a baseball bat). Fielder is a bigger dude than most cover-guy athletes, and so, of course, the trolls came out of the woodwork on Twitter, criticizing the athlete’s weight. Most of the hundred-and-forty-character meanness had to do with the AUDACITY of Fielder, who does not have a David Beckham/Ryan Lochte physique, to DARE to pose naked for a magazine. Same old body shaming lameness we’ve heard a million times before and are sick to death of times infinity.
Fortunately, the athlete also had some supportive fans, who used Fielder’s cover to give the hashtag #huskytwitter a huge bump and drove home the fact that athletes come in all shapes and sizes and not every athlete has to look like an action figure.
But it was Fielder who had the most inspiring reflection about body confidence. In his interview with ESPN.com, he said:
“A lot of people probably think I’m not athletic or don’t even try to work out or whatever, but I do. Just because you’re big doesn’t mean you can’t be an athlete. And just because you work out doesn’t mean you’re going to have a 12-pack. I work out to make sure I can do my job to the best of my ability. Other than that, I’m not going up there trying to be a fitness model.”
What Fielder is saying is so important and it doesn’t get said enough. A person can be a powerful athlete and have a little bit of a tummy, or some thighs, or whatever. It’s not the job of an athlete’s body to conform to the narrowest standard of beauty. It’s the job of an athlete’s body to be strong, and quick, and whatever else it needs to be to kick butt and take names. Fielder is a wonderful reminder that being an awesome athlete isn’t about how you look posing for a photo (and for the record we think he looks great), it’s about what you do when you’re out on the field playing your game.