Miggy Day magic: Cabrera continues theatrics after farewell ceremony

September 30th, 2023

DETROIT -- 's farewell ceremony Saturday afternoon brought an emotional sellout crowd to its feet. The Tigers’ 8-0 win over the Guardians at Comerica Park nearly brought Miggy to his knees.

He stood on third base hunched over for a second, exhausted. After his third double in two days got the crowd going, his aggressive tag on Kerry Carpenter’s fly ball to right field had fans roaring as he slid into third. He looked relieved -- as was manager A.J. Hinch -- when Matt Vierling’s triple to left-center allowed him to stroll home.

“When he [got] to third, he was looking in to see if we're going to run the contact play,” Hinch said. “I know he doesn't mean it, but he's looking, and he knows, and he gives me like a, 'Why not?' [No, for] obvious reasons. So stuff like that doesn't shock the group, and it does energize us, and it was nice to get him in.”

It was the first tally in Detroit's runaway win, punctuated by a five-run seventh inning that included Cabrera’s 103rd career sacrifice fly -- tied with four others for 25th on the all-time list -- for his 1,881st RBI. It was also Miggy having fun on a bittersweet day.

“What I really enjoy watching Miggy,” Hall of Famer Alan Trammell said in the ceremony, “is the little boy in him that he brings to the ballpark.”

Trammell spoke eloquently about Cabrera’s impact, noting the late Hall of Famer Al Kaline’s observation years ago that Cabrera was the greatest right-handed hitter he’d ever seen. Jim Leyland gave Cabrera a hug that brought back memories of his Triple Crown season under the legendary manager. Eduardo Rodriguez and Matthew Boyd spoke about the honor of being his teammate and the gift of being his friend.

“It’s such an amazing career,” Rodriguez said beforehand. “And watching him do this, it’s something special to see.”

After a season of watching other teams celebrate Cabrera’s career with retirement gifts and charitable donations, Hinch and Leyland presented Cabrera -- a shoe fanatic -- with a pair of custom Jordan cleats from artist Marko Terzo that include material from baseballs collected during key moments in Cabrera’s career, a gift from the club. Rodriguez and Boyd gave Miggy a Comerica Park chair signed by all the members of this, his final team.

President of baseball operations Scott Harris presented a $24,000 check from the team to the Miguel Cabrera Foundation. Tigers legends Willie Horton and Lance Parrish unveiled a giant number 24 sculpture on the right-field concourse -- made out of 3,000 baseballs, 500 of them in gold to represent his home runs -- which will remain on display in the park in future seasons.

Cabrera sat with his wife and kids before crouching his 40-year-old body behind the plate to catch ceremonial first pitches from his mom -- a former standout softball player in Venezuela -- and dad. He wore sunglasses, at least partly to hide the emotion in his eyes, a trick he learned during previous ceremonies celebrating his 500th home run and 3,000th hit. Still, it was easy to tell what it meant to him.

“It sounded like and felt like Miggy had a good time all day,” Hinch said. “The number one importance is Miguel, his happiness and his family. ... I mean, his parents threw bullets to the plate.”

Cabrera also learned from past ceremonies how to pivot quickly into game mode. When he flew out in the eighth inning, he kept his head down on his way to the dugout while the crowd stood for one more ovation. He hasn’t wanted applause for unproductive outs, even with his career winding down.

Now comes one more game Sunday, likely many more ovations from another sellout crowd, and one last farewell as a player.

“We’ve got one more game,” said Hinch, whose team clinched at least a share of second place in the AL Central, its best finish since 2016. “It feels like the most important game of the year, for obvious reasons.”

It’s important enough that Rodriguez asked to start it.

“The more important part is to be out there and see him in his last couple at-bats,” Rodriguez said. “If I can get a copy of the lineup card, maybe he’ll sign it for me. It’ll have his name for the last time, and mine will be there, too. It’s something I’ll keep right next to my World Series stuff [from Boston]. That means the world to me, just to be out there for his last game.”