How Miggy's 3,000 moment will get to Cooperstown

April 23rd, 2022

Miguel Cabrera reached a new personal milestone on Saturday with his 3,000th career hit, becoming the 33rd member of one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

Even more exclusive? He’s just the seventh man in MLB history to reach 500 home runs and 3,000 hits. Part of a group of players who are among the greatest to ever step inside a big league ballpark.

Now that the moment has happened, there have been standing ovations, on-field ceremonies and recollections back to when Miggy got his very first hit as a 20-year-old Florida Marlin. One of the most memorable of the 2,999 that would follow it. And then, maybe most significantly, something from the game will make its way to Cooperstown and through the hallowed doors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

But how exactly does that last part of the process happen? How does the Hall of Fame plan for these milestone moments? How do these gameday artifacts make their way from places all across the world to a tiny, not-even-2,000-person town in upstate New York?

“We actually have a group of curators and other staff members that meet once a month,” Erik Strohl, Vice President of Exhibitions and Collections at the National Baseball Hall of Fame, told me. “We get together right before the season starts and we start with [making] that list. We look at what potential milestones might be coming up and other sort of special events from which we’d want to collect.”

“Yeah, so that document is kind of the foundation of what we work towards for the year,” Jon Shestakofsky, Vice President of Communications and Education for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, added. “It not only has the moments and the milestones we’re looking forward to during the next season, but we also try to come to a conclusion for what kinds of artifacts we’d be looking to collect for each of those milestones.”

If it’s a fielder or pitcher who accomplished a feat, they might look into collecting a hat or glove. If it’s a batter, they might be looking more into a bat or ball or helmet. An example of something they primed for prior to the 2021 season was Tim Locastro’s record-setting stolen base:

Or Yadier Molina’s 2,000th hit in 2020:

So, what are the plans for Cabrera in 2022?

“It’s interesting, with Miguel Cabrera, it actually started last year when we began preparing for his 500th home run,” Shestakofsky said.

“Knowing where he was on other charts, we were well aware that 3,000 hits wouldn’t be far behind. So, we’ve actually been looking at that in combination. We actually received the helmet that he wore for his 500th home run in September and, based on having that, it kind of informed us what we’re doing to prepare for the 3,000 hit request.”

Shestakofsky (Middle) with Hall of Fame President Josh Rawitch and Cabrera; Photo via Tigers

Like any pre-planned milestone moment on their list, the HOF team has already sent in a request to the Tigers and will work with the club and Cabrera on bringing back something from his 3,000-hit game. They also want to make sure it’s something different from anything the player might already have in the Hall.

Cabrera’s hit and other major milestones are relatively easy to plan for before a season starts, but there’s also the reactive portion of gathering artifacts. When there’s suddenly a four-homer game or cycle or no-hitter.

“Yeah, you never know what’s gonna happen on any given day in baseball,” Strohl said. “It’s been going on for 150 years and you still see something you’ve never seen before. It’s something you’ve got to react to right in the moment.”

“We have relationships with the league and with all 30 clubs and that allows us to make sure we’re in the best possible position to make an ask,” Shestakofsky told me. “Whether that’s teeing it up in advance for a milestone we know is coming our way … or for something that happens at 1 in the morning on the East Coast. We have to be ready to react and get in touch with the right people to make sure they know the Hall of Fame is seeking an artifact that can connect back to the game’s history and forever preserve that history here in Cooperstown.”

Another time the team at the Hall of Fame can collect treasured game items is at Jewel events: Midsummer Classics, special games in out-of-the-ordinary places or during the postseason in October. One fun story is how the Hall got ahold of Joc Pederson’s famous pearl necklace after the Braves’ World Series win in 2021. What turned into a joke request during the World Series clubhouse celebration actually became a reality.

"We ended up seeing Joc go by and casually made a joke, 'You know, if those weren't real pearls, we would've asked you if you'd donate that to the Hall of Fame,'" Shestakofsky said. "Simply because [the pearls] had embodied the spirit of this team and become such an important visual piece for the postseason run and World Series victory."

The group laughed about it and then Pederson came back later and asked, "Are you serious about this?"

Pederson was able to get another set of pearls from his jeweler and sent the original off to Cooperstown.

"That was a lot of fun being able to do something like that," Strohl said.

Strohl and Shestakofsky wouldn’t hint at what they’re planning on getting from Cabrera after his big moment. Maybe it’ll be batting gloves, maybe the ball, maybe the wrapper of a candy bar Cabrera scarfed down before his at-bat. Either way, the item will be handled carefully from field to transport to museum display case.

“We do have some special shipping procedures,” Shestakofsky said. “That insures that the artifact gets here intact and in great shape. Once it gets here, that’s when it kind of changes from a piece of equipment that was used on a baseball field to an artifact that’ll be living in a museum collection for eternity.”

If Miggy’s 3,000th-hit memorabilia is taken care of as well as Joc’s pearls, then the baseball world has nothing to worry about.