For Miguel Cabrera, time in Detroit has been about more than just baseball

Detroit News

That little kid from the Le Pedrera barrio in Maracay, Venezuela, the one who used to race out of school every day straight to the dirt ball fields, the one who at 10 years old was hitting mushy baseballs 300 feet with his mother’s wood softball bat, the one whose talent was so obvious, so extraordinary, that his parents shelved their own careers to support and chaperone his dreams of playing baseball in Las Grandes Ligas that kid is still very much inside of Miguel Cabrera.

It manifests itself in the unbridled, childlike joy he brings to the ballpark every day, even at age 40 and in the final season of his Hall of Fame-assured, 21-year career. It also manifests itself in his life away from baseball, especially in his tireless philanthropic endeavors.

Cabrera has never forgotten the sacrifices his parents Gregoria and Jose Miguel made for him. He’s made it his mission to do the same for others in Venezuela, in Miami, where he lives in the offseason, and in Michigan.

“I don’t come here only to play baseball,” Cabrera said. “I want to be part of this community. I want to be part of the Detroit family. So when they ask me to do something for the city, I will be open to do it. It’s something we love to do. It’s not like somebody is pushing me to do it. It’s something I feel comfortable doing.

“It’s about giving back to the people.”

As proud as he is of his accomplishments on the field the 2012 Triple Crown, the two MVP awards, the four batting titles, the 12 All-Star games the multiple nominations he received for baseball’s Roberto Clemente Award hold a special place in his heart.

“But I don’t do this for an award,” Cabrera said. “I do it because I want to do it. People say, ‘Oh, it’s nice for you to do that.’ But it’s not for me. I want to do something for (the community). That’s why I do it.”

The Clemente Award recognizes the player who best represents the game through character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions on and off the field.

“This is something that my whole family is involved with, not only me,” he said. “I have a lot of people behind me that do a lot of the work. They deserve this more than me.”

Through the Miguel Cabrera Foundation, which he founded with his wife Rosangel 12 years ago, he provides college scholarship endowments for Venezuelans who were stranded at universities outside the country and also for first-generation college students in Michigan and South Florida.

Through his foundation, Cabrera also has helped revitalize the baseball field in the Clark Park neighborhood in Detroit and provided grants locally and abroad, including scholarships for The Miracle League of Michigan.

“If you can change a life, just one life, it’s going to help in the future,” Cabrera said. “We go out there and we play baseball and we try to win games, but that’s not all there is to it. We want to be part of the community and try to help the most people that we can and try to change somebody’s life.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tapped into Cabrera’s altruism and community spirit during the pandemic to help promote COVID-19 vaccines across the state. He served as a co-chair of the Protect Michigan Commission, recording public service announcements in Spanish and English.

On top of that, Cabrera, partnering his foundation with the Tigers Foundation, donated $250,000 to benefit children and families in Detroit. The donation helped provide meals for children, technology for students, day care for families and high-quality face masks for Detroiters through grants to Detroit Public Schools Community District, Detroit Public Schools Foundation, Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan, Detroit Police Athletic League and Brilliant Detroit.

“I don’t want people to give me credit for something I do from my heart,” Cabrera said. “Nobody pushes me to do this. It’s something I want to do, something we are glad to do. I always say Thank God because he gave me the opportunity to do this, to help people. It’s nice.”

For 16 years, Cabrera and his family have lived in Michigan in the summer and in Miami in the offseason. And from the sound of it, that snowbird citizenship might continue after he hangs up his spikes.

“It will be hard not to stay in baseball,” he said. “I want to stay in the organization. I want to help these young guys, help all my teammates here. I hope we can find a way to go back to the playoffs and go to the World Series. I would like to be part of that here.”

In five years, Cabrera will almost assuredly be representing Detroit and the Tigers when he is expected to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. He’ll join Hank Aaron and Willie Mays as the only players in the history of the game to amass 500 home runs, 3,000 hits and a .300 lifetime batting average.

There is already a space on the bricks at Comerica Park for his No. 24 jersey, where he will join the pantheon of Tigers greats Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, Hal Newhouser, Al Kaline, Willie Horton, Sparky Anderson, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker.

“Detroit is my family,” Cabrera said. “I want to say thank you, Detroit. Thank you for opening your arms to me and (making) me feel at home here. I appreciate that. I am really happy they did that for me.”

Twitter: @cmccosky

Age: 40

Occupation: Major League baseball player

Family: Wife Rosangel, son Christopher, daughters Isabella and Rosangel. Father Jose Miguel, mother Dona Gregoria (ne: Torres)

Why honored: For his Hall of Fame-worthy 21-year playing career, 16 of those seasons in Detroit, and for his tireless philanthropic services in Michigan, in South Florida and in his native country, Venezuela



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