This story was excerpted from Jason Beck’s Tigers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.
Miguel Cabrera has one of the most impressive hitting resumes of his generation. He’s one of just three hitters all-time with 3,000-plus hits, 500-plus home runs and a career batting average over .300. But amidst all the big hits and runs, he has tried to make just as big of an impact in his communities, from Detroit to Miami to his native Venezuela.
With this month’s selection as the Tigers’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, Cabrera has been up for the honor for at least a decade, a feat that shouldn’t be overlooked among his career feats. From his perspective, however, he’d rather not get a ton of attention for it.
“I don’t do this for an award. It’s because I want to do it,” Cabrera said recently. “I don’t want the people to say, ‘Oh, it’s nice for him to do that.’ I want to do it because it’s something that’s born inside of me.
“It’s something that all my family do. It’s not only me. I have a lot of people behind me that do a lot of hard work. I think they deserve it more than me.”
Cabrera and his wife Rosangel established the Miguel Cabrera Foundation shortly after he arrived in Detroit and signed a long-term extension with the Tigers. He was a budding star at age 25 and looking to make an impact.
Initially, the foundation focused on renovating and enhancing youth ballparks to provide kids with opportunities to learn and play the game like Cabrera did years ago. The program helped restore ballfields like Clark Park in Detroit a decade ago. Cabrera brought Miggy Ball 24 to the Corner Ballpark on the old Tiger Stadium site to help kids showcase and work on their skills.
Soon after, the Cabreras saw a chance to branch out their efforts. Magglio Ordóñez — Cabrera’s friend and teammate from his first few years in Detroit — had started a scholarship fund for deserving students in Southwest Detroit, and there was an opportunity to pick up where he left off. The Cabrera Family Scholarship awards two renewable scholarships to first-generation students in Detroit and South Florida.
“It’s a good thing. It’s a great thing,” Cabrera said.
Then came an issue in Venezuela, where kids who were studying abroad on scholarship suddenly had their funding removed and needed support. The Cabrera stepped forward and filled the gap.
“That’s when we said, ‘We need to do these scholarships for these people,’” he said.
In addition, the Cabreras stepped forward to help kids and families in Detroit during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping provide personal protection gear for kids as well as helping parents needing a hand with affordable childcare and technology at a time when kids were at home.
Time will tell if Cabrera is finally recognized with the national Roberto Clemente Award, given out annually to the player who best represents the game of baseball through character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions on and off the field. Fans can vote on the award here until the regular season ends on Wednesday, Oct. 5.
But Cabrera needs only look at the students who have been able to attend college through the scholarship, or play baseball on revived fields, to see the reward. That’s part of his legacy like the base hits, homers and batting titles.