Miggy's retirement gift? 'They already give me a lot of hits ... that’s enough'

February 20th, 2023

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Miguel Cabrera isn’t looking for farewell gifts for his final season. He isn’t looking for emotional ceremonies with longtime foes or former teammates at various stops on the Tigers’ schedule.

“It’s nice if they do something. It’s nice if they don’t do it, either,” Cabrera said on Monday morning. “Some kind of guys always want to be in the middle of everything. I don’t want attention. I don’t want any distraction for our team. We look forward to going out there to beat these guys.

“I’m not looking to see if they give me something. They already give me a lot of hits, so that’s enough for me.”

Whether Cabrera wants it or not, he’s going to get a lot of attention. The interview session Monday morning, with media crowded around his locker at Joker Marchant Stadium, was just the start.

Shortly after Cabrera wrapped up his media session, his manager brought it back to mind as A.J. Hinch addressed the full squad ahead of their first formal workout together.

“I brought him up in the first meeting,” Hinch said, “so that tells you that I didn’t listen to his desire to not be talked about. We’re going to cherish our time with Miggy. We’re also going to let him be a player and be a contributor and just be himself.

“He doesn’t want a ton of attention. He’s going to get it from fans, from the organization, from his teammates. It’s his 21st Major League season. I think his contribution to the Tigers needs to be celebrated, but we need to let him be himself on the field and let him play, not just reminisce about the last 20 years.”

This tricky balance is nothing new for Cabrera. When he won the Triple Crown in 2012, he was so focused on leading the Tigers to a division title that then-teammate Prince Fielder had to remind him not only that it was OK to enjoy the historic individual feat but that he would be regretful if he didn’t. Cabrera’s batting title in 2015, his fourth in five years, was an afterthought amidst a last-place finish that ended Detroit's streak of four division crowns. His 500th home run in 2021 was enjoyable for his teammates’ reactions.

As much as Cabrera enjoys the game, he often enjoys the day-to-day work more than the feats. He smiled and joked with reporters Monday morning, even grabbing a TV reporter’s microphone and doing a mock interview when asked what he might do in retirement. He smiled just as much on the field as he joined Detroit’s young hitters for drills and batting practice.

“I look forward to enjoying this season,” Cabrera said, “trying to help young guys to improve this season, trying to help our team win more games. I think that’s my focus this year. I don’t want any distraction. I don’t want any video, any of that kind of stuff. I don’t want to be in the middle of attention. I want to be hiding, trying to do my job.”

Hinch is leaning on the veteran mentoring part. He plans to talk with Cabrera about his role, but the veteran’s experience is an important resource for a team that wants to give opportunities to young hitters.

About 50 feet over from Cabrera’s media gathering, Tigers infield prospect was settling into his locker. He has one of the bank of lockers in the middle of the clubhouse, set up each year for prospects for the first few weeks of camp. Keith was 21 months old when Cabrera made his Major League debut in 2003 with a walk-off homer for the Marlins.

“When you think of Colt Keith walking into his first Major League clubhouse as a 21-year-old, he’s going to kind of side-eye Miguel Cabrera and wonder if he’s looking at him,” Hinch said. “Can he approach him? Can he talk to him? The faster we break those walls down, the better for the young kids.”

Cabrera was once in Keith’s shoes, even if he doesn’t remember much from his first Spring Training.

“I don’t know. Different car,” Cabrera said. “I have a better car now.”

With that, Cabrera busted out laughing. And that’s how he can break down those walls and the generation gap. The more he enjoys this, the more his teammates can get from it.

“I’ve been blessed,” he said. “I thank God for this opportunity. I’ve got a lot of good memories.”