'We need his influence': Miggy back at camp as special assistant

March 12th, 2024

LAKELAND, Fla. -- For a split second, it was as if never left.

There was the no-doubt Hall of Famer and the Tigers’ newest special assistant, in baseball gear, cap and hoodie, taking throws at first base Tuesday morning. He looked in playing shape, even with a couple extra gray whiskers on his chin, and he chatted with former teammate Spencer Torkelson behind the bag like a long-lost friend.

But make no mistake, Cabrera is happy in retirement. He has no regrets about stepping away after last season following 21 Major League seasons, 3,174 hits and 511 home runs.

“I'm feeling good. I feel like I gave everything I had in baseball,” Cabrera said. “Right now I can say, 'OK, that's enough.' I didn't want to leave baseball and say I can play more. No, I can't play anymore. No more baseball for me. Volleyball and softball.”

Yes, volleyball, as his Instagram posts show.

“My teammates do it all,” Cabrera said. “I just go out there and serve, pass and that’s it.”

The Tigers announced at the end of last season that Cabrera would stay in the organization as a special assistant. Cabrera and Detroit manager A.J. Hinch had been working to figure out the timing of his arrival in camp, allowing the team some time to settle into its current form while giving Cabrera an opportunity to provide a boost of energy and pass on knowledge to younger players.

As the Tigers enter the final two weeks of camp, having just returned from a two-day trip that included long drives to West Palm Beach and Port St. Lucie, now was a good time.

“As he walked into the building, into the room, all the guys were really excited,” Hinch said. “So it’s a perfect time to bring his energy and his laugh to the field.”

Cabrera will be in camp for the week.

“He’s going to be in the [batting] cage at 8 a.m. with the hitting coaches,” said Hinch. “He’s going to do a little bit of work on the Minor League side. He’s going to be in the dugout for the game and sort of begin his new role with the organization.

“It’s pretty awesome. Obviously we have a ton of influences around the organization, but getting Miggy, we need his wisdom, we need his influence.”

The Tigers and Cabrera are still working on his role during the season. He plans to attend the home opener on April 5 at Comerica Park, and might be in Chicago for Opening Day, if his daughter’s volleyball schedule allows. But he also wants to be a resource for Minor Leaguers.

“Whatever they ask me, I’m open to talk to them,” Cabrera said. “The more I want to talk about is up here, mental. Because lot of times, we put a lot of pressure [on them]. Go out there, do your job, have fun.”

That said, he also has high expectations for the team.

“Hope the starting pitchers stay healthy,” Cabrera said. “If they stay healthy, playoffs.”