Juxtaposition of Miguel Cabrera’s 3,000 hits and Detroit Tigers team that musters just 2

Detroit Free Press

Miguel Cabrera was on the field posing for a picture when Victor Martinez, his old teammate, sneaked into the Detroit Tigers‘ dugout.

“What about the ball from 3,000? Don’t worry, we didn’t lose it,” Dan Dickerson, the Tigers radio announcer, said during Sunday afternoon’s celebration honoring Cabrera for reaching 3,000 hits. “We do however, have a surprise guest on hand to make that presentation. Please welcome back to Comerica Park, entering the field from the Tigers’ dugout, a teammate of Miguel Cabrera for seven seasons, five-time All-Star Victor Martinez.”

Cabrera spun around and put his hands on his head, totally stunned. What do you get for the guy who has everything? An amazing moment.

Cabrera walked toward Martinez and they hugged on the field. Martinez held up the ball and put it into a case.

What a wonderful celebration.

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We know that Cabrera is a great hitter —one of the greatest of all time.

We know that he is a beloved teammate. We see his personality come out when he’s joking at first base or laughing with his teammates on the bench. But we don’t get to see these genuine interactions with his family and former teammates, and that’s what made this celebration so perfect.

It was the way Cabrera and Martinez stood next to each other during the national anthem, as if they were savoring every moment back together.

It was the way Cabrera engulfed his son, Christopher, in a two-armed hug, kissing him on top of the head.

It was the way he smiled while teasing Tigers general manager Al Avila, wiping something off his suit jacket.

It was the way Cabrera danced in the dugout before the top of the fifth inning.

It was the way he interacted with the fans. Before the ceremony, a fan was outside the dugout, screaming his name. Cabrera turned, broke into a smile and nodded at the fan.

It was the way Cabrera greeted his former teammates — “Aaagh!’ Cabrera screamed, putting his arm around Austin Jackson, the former Tigers outfielder.

It was the way Cabrera went through a greeting with his daughter Isabel — an intricate hand gesture that looked like the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” climbing an imaginary web.

‘The best to manage the best’

During the celebration, Cabrera sat on a folding chair, a giant man on a small seat. He looked like a high school kid who went back to elementary school for a celebration he didn’t quite want to attend. Because he never wants to be the center of attention.

“As a team, we have tried to soak up every moment of Miggy’s chase,” manager A.J. Hinch said.

Miggy was looking to his right, smiling and waving to somebody.

“But it’s how you did it that is most incredible in how we relate to you,” Hinch said. “It’s that smile, that flex, that dance you are doing nowadays after you get a big hit, thanks to Christopher.”

Cabrera glanced at his son and smiled.

“What is it like to manage Miggy?” Hinch asked. “It is the best to manage the best of all time.”

They hugged.

Alex Avila, Cabrera’s teammate for eight seasons, came to the mic, and Cabrera playfully slapped him in the leg.

It was recently brought up to me just a few days ago that I was your teammate for almost half of your career hits,” Alex Avila said. “I thought that was pretty cool… I was in the Hall of Fame a few weeks ago. I came across Ted Williams, and I remember him talking about how he wanted to be remembered as the greatest hitter who ever lived. Now I know Miggy probably wouldn’t say something like that. He wouldn’t really want to seek that kind of attention. But I’ll say for him, I mean, you’re one of the greatest hitters ever.”

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A dad and his daughter

The most revealing moment was the way Cabrera looked at Brisel, his 16-year-old daughter, after she gave a beautiful, heart-melting, tear-jerking speech on a video.

“Do you know how good you have to be to get to 3,000 major-league hits?” she asked sweetly. “Actually, you can’t just be good. You have to be great.  And No. 24 has been one of the all-time greats. A four-time batting champion, a two-time MVP and a Triple Crown winner.”

The crowd broke into applause.

“Of course, around my house, we just call him, ‘Dad,’ ” Brisel said.

The video showed her father getting his 3,000th hit. “Base hit into right — 3,000 for Miguel Cabrera!” Dickerson said on the call.

“I’ve tried to get my dad to talk about his accomplishments, but he’d rather talk about anyone but himself,” Brisel said.

The video showed her father at a press conference after his 3,000th hit. As Cabrera ended the presser, he told reporters: “See you in the playoffs. No more interview!” he said, leaving the podium.

The reporters laughed.

But I don’t think he was joking. He’d rather never talk again.

“The guy you see on the field, just enjoying his teammates and smiling with the fans” Brisel said. “That is the real Miguel Cabrera.”

Cabrera was wearing sunglasses which, Hinch said later, covered up some watery eyes.

“When I was born, my dad had just 429 career hits,” Brisel said. “So I’d like to think I helped him get the rest he needed, to get here!”

She was seen on video pointing at the Miggy Milestone marker above left-center field, now at 3,039.

“I think I speak for everyone, especially his greatest fans back home, when I say, ‘We love you,'” she said. “We are proud of you and we will never forget this moment. You have done something special that has brought us together. Thanks, Dad!”

Cabrera looked at her and beamed.

A dad and his daughter.

How freakin’ amazing.

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Down in the dumps

A few hours later, Cabrera sat at his locker after Toronto’s 6-0 victory.

“We are having a rough season, so I think we need to do a better job offensively, starting to win more games,” he said. “We got to go out there and get better at-bats, swing at our pitches, and that’s it.”

Cabrera makes it sound so easy.

It’s not.

“It’s a long season,” he said. “We never know what’s gonna happen, so we’re gonna keep thinking positive and go out there tomorrow and play hard trying to win the game.”

The interview ended and Cabrera ducked out of the clubhouse.

In the hallway, he met with his family. His kissed his son on the head and then hugged his daughters. He walked up a ramp and 17 family members followed him.

One of the greatest hitters of all time.

A guy who has looked so effortless in piling up 3,039 hits.

And he’s playing on a team that shows you — seemingly every day, in painful game after painful game — just how hard it is to string together just a couple.

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Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff.

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