Here’s how I found a fresh appreciation for retiring Detroit Tigers star Miguel Cabrera

Detroit Free Press

I have to admit something.

I’ve grown tired of all the “Miggy Moments” this year.

An endless, unrelenting series of highlights of Detroit Tigers DH Miguel Cabrera’s career have appeared on TV, radio or the scoreboard at Comerica Park; and I started thinking: Yes, I get it — he’s retiring. He was a great player, no question. We appreciate him. We’ve honored him over and over. It’s time to move on.

After writing about Cabrera for more than a decade, not to mention chronicling his 500th homer and his 3,000th hit, I developed some Miggy fatigue.

So, when I got a chance to preview a one-hour special — “Miguel Cabrera: One of a Kind,” which will debut at 10 p.m. Tuesday on Bally Sports Detroit — I didn’t expect much.

I know the Miggy story.

You probably do, too.

How he was signed by Al Avila.

FLASHBACK: How Miguel Cabrera’s epic 500-homer journey to history began in Venezuela

How he was traded to Detroit — a tip of the cap, here, to Mr. I, who made it happen.

How he won the Triple Crown — probably the greatest thing I’ve seen in sports.

How he played with so much childlike joy, becoming a living legend.

What could they bring to a story we already know so intimately?

But this one-hour special is truly special; and I urge you to watch it — or at least record it.

It’s must-see Miggy, but not because we get some fresh insight into Miggy from Miggy.

No. The true magic in this special, the true insight into this aging superstar, comes from a vast collection of former teammates, opponents, managers, executives and media members who share their stories about Cabrera.

Justin Verlander. Jim Leyland. Dave Dombrowski. Nick Castellanos. Victor Martinez. Max Scherzer. Ivan Rodriguez. Cameron Maybin. Dan Dickerson. Alex Avila. The list goes on and on. It’s like they brought the gang all back together for 60 minutes; it makes you miss those days, and offers a new perspective on Miggy, through their words.

Then, it gets really good when they show Miggy watching the interviews on a tablet.

“Ver!” Miggy says, watching Verlander.

And we get that laugh.

That smile.

That quick one-liner.

Pure Miggy.

MORE FROM SEIDEL: What makes Miguel Cabrera one of the greatest hitters ever? Just ask the pitchers he faced

The story behind the story

Miggy has always been difficult to interview.

I’ve talked to him countless times, and he can be so expressive — smiling and laughing — and I think, I’ve got something fantastic, I have some new insight into what makes him tick. I walk away and try to transcribe it — to try to piece the words together into something readable, I try to speak Miggy — and it’s, well, nothing.

Because he says more with his smile and eyes than his words.

But this TV special brings him to life in a new way.

Like on the trade: “I was like, oh my God, I go to Detroit, I go to the Motor City. But I don’t know about the cold here, bro.”

He gets serious. “I say, why they trade me here?” he laughs, a laugh that says everything.

The secret to telling a great story is in the tiny details that bring it to life.

And with this show, I learned a ton of small details about Cabrera that I had never heard before.

Like how Rodriguez urged Miggy to stop choking up on his bat.

“I looked at Miguel in the batting cage,” Rodriguez said. “I said, ‘You are 6-4, man, 215 pounds. What are you doing?’ ”

He urged him to change his grip.

“After that, I started to hit more home runs,” Miggy said. “I start to hit more line drives. I have more control in my bat. … Thank God, I listened to him because he helped me a lot.”

It is fascinating to hear Dombrowski tell how the Tigers traded for Cabrera — yes, I knew the overall story, but Dombrowski offers a bunch of small details that I had never heard before.

I won’t spoil that one.

But I do want to share a moment at the end of the video.

“What’s next for Miguel Cabrera when he’s done playing baseball?” he is asked.

“I want to be around baseball,” Cabrera says. “I want to be helping the kids, like growing up, helping the kids make the right decisions.”

“Can we expect to see you here in Detroit?”

“Come on, Mr. Ilitch,” Miggy says, breaking into a smile. “Make it happen.”

Indeed. Make it happen.

Making the story fresh

When you see all the highlights put together in one place, when you can literally see him age over a one-hour span, when you can see old interviews mixed with new ones, when you hear all his teammates tell stories about him, when you see how much he loves his teammates, when you put some humanity on top of his records and when you hear the absolute admiration in other MLB players, it seems to put everything into perspective.

Somehow, this special made the Miggy story fresh again.

Somehow, it made me appreciate him even more.

This special feels comprehensive, even though it’s not. I still want to know more about what makes him tick but he has guarded that for years behind those smiles and laughs. I still want to him to talk about the struggles he’s had off the field — but I doubt we will ever get that.

But for what it is, an hour-long special that bounces between a tribute and an incredible story of one of the greatest players ever — “A dream come true,” Miggy says — it’s well worth the watch.

As we enter the final stage of his playing career in Detroit, I think we needed this.

Maybe, I needed it.

Watching this special has taken away my Miggy fatigue.

And it has put his incredible story, his incredible career, in the right perspective.

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

To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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