Ten years separate them, and in baseball that constitutes an entire generation. Joey Gallo sees everything all wide-eyed, the kid who can't believe this incredible world into which he strutted, while Prince Fielder is the oldest 31-year-old around, his lens colored by the knowledge of what happens when it all goes away.
They are both Texas Rangers, both left-handed power hitters, both trying to keep this Yu Darvish-less season afloat for a team that looked doomed as recently as a month ago. And that is baseball, more or less, guys in different stages of life with their similarities often limited to handedness experiencing the same thing with different types of appreciation.
Gallo, for instance, could not believe what his first major league plane trip offered him: Chipotle. Like, for free. Get a sheet, circle what you want, burrito on demand. So six loops later – brown rice, pinto beans, chicken, hot salsa, cheese and guacamole, thanks – Gallo felt like he had arrived in the big leagues, every bit as much as when he wrecked a home run nearly 450 feet in his debut.
"I was looking at it like, 'Is this real?' " he said. "Half the people didn't use it. I was like, 'I'm definitely getting Chipotle.' I wasn't even hungry."
Fielder long ago inured himself to the luxuries of the big leagues – Chipotle being a luxury to, oh, 21-year-olds, which Gallo happens to be – and focused on other things, like what happens when a body that has been among the heartiest since Cal Ripken Jr.'s suddenly betrayed him. Doctors last year fused the C-5 and C-6 vertebrae in his neck. He missed almost the entire season and returned a question mark. And now all Fielder is doing is leading the American League in hitting at .342 and the Rangers in every category from home runs to RBIs to on-base percentage to slugging.
"It was tough at first," Fielder said. "And then it was all right. You don't want to miss games. But this was my first summer off since I was 15 or 16. Made the best of it, got better, hung out with the family and now I'm healthy."
What many mistake for a laissez-faire attitude – most of Detroit, following Fielder's infamous "It's over" response to an ALCS loss – is just his natural style, his desire to keep baseball off the pedestal on which so many of his brethren place it. Guys like Gallo.
Because he is young and doesn't have kids like Fielder and spent his days with his father and Jason Giambi – "My second father," Gallo said – honing the swing to match his body. And as much as anyone in the major leagues, Gallo is positively Stantonian, as tall as Giancarlo Stanton, with the same wide shoulders tapering down to a waist that supports the sort of legs that start the process to launch balls into orbit. Nobody hits a ball like Stanton. Gallo is among the handful of hitters who can at least dream it.
The power brought him to the big leagues, earlier, frankly, than he expected. Since being drafted in 2012, he has homered once every 10 at-bats. He dropped to 39th overall in the draft because of the fear that his inability to make contact would render the power inert, and Gallo does indeed make Adam Dunn look like a strikeout prude – 12 times in his first 17 at-bats. It's part of the deal, the Faustian bargain teams will make for what comes naturally to Gallo, which is depositing balls 450 feet away with equanimity.
The Milwaukee Brewers drafted Fielder for the same reason, and he turned into one of his generation's best hitters. It's true. Look past the body, past the baserunning bumbles, past the rough glove at first base and at the players over the last decade with at least 2,000 plate appearances and an adjusted OPS higher than Fielder. This is the list: Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Andrew McCutchen and Stanton.
"Sometimes people today put you in a box," Fielder said. "Like, I'm a power guy. I just want to hit the ball hard and help the team win."
The .346 batting average includes a spray chart that looks like it's a target lit up by the world's worst shot. Dots are everywhere – left, right, up, down, middle. Fielder has been indiscriminate with where he hits the ball, lacing six doubles alone dead down the left-field line. His power is still almost all pull, with only one home run to the left of second base and barely at that. The formula works.
Gallo is still yanking everything, the extreme shift inevitable, though he'll adjust because there's really no other option. The game, Giambi taught him, will beat you if you don't beat it first. Already Gallo is seeing the fewest fastballs in the major leagues by a significant margin. Such are the quandaries one creates with home runs measured in light years.
All the Rangers know is their fortunes seem tied to the home run. In April, they hit 13, the third fewest in the major leagues, and went 7-14. Come May, they mashed a big league-best 42, and even though their ERA was a quarter-run higher than in the previous month, they went 19-11. When the ball flies out of Globe Life Park, the Rangers have a fearsome offense, and that's without Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton.
The former is on the disabled list with a bum thumb, and Gallo came up to take his spot at third base. The latter is on the DL with a strained hamstring, and he plays the position to which Gallo seems likeliest to transition immediately as well as going forward. "I can play outfield," he said. "I feel like I can play wherever. When I played in the minor leagues, most people told me I should just stick out there, because I was way better than I was at third. I don't know if that's a compliment."
He took it as one, because even as he nears the end of his second big league week with an average still over .300 and a pair of home runs, Gallo remains a ball of unmolded clay, still capable of changing himself, another six years to cement himself into the Rangers' cleanup spot. Fielder is Fielder, only older, fighting against the natural order of the game that tends to usher out greatness when the new breed arrives, five years and $90 million left for the Rangers to cover. Some generations are more fecund than others because players hold on to what they had, what they were.
New Rangers manager Jeff Banister remembers the Fielder of Detroit facing the Pirates team for which Banister coached. "Wore us out," he said. And the one in Milwaukee. "Killed us," Banister said. That Prince Fielder hit 50 home runs and had a one-dimensional reputation, even though he led the league in walks and four straight years put up a .400-plus OBP. Kansas City manager Ned Yost saw Fielder arrive in the big leagues when he managed in Milwaukee, and in a recent game intentionally walked him twice, both times in scenarios that didn't necessarily call for it.
"That's respect," Banister said. "He's earned that. Ned managed him. He knows him as good as anybody. I'm sure his memory of Prince Fielder is very vivid, because he got to live what Prince could do and did do."
The Rangers are kicking around .500 because of what Fielder does. And the amuse bouche of what Gallo can do tantalized the palate, even if the returns of Beltre and Hamilton cut it short for now. He'll have plenty more time, plenty more chicken burritos, because no shared quality brings together two generations like power, and that's what the Rangers appreciate more than anything.