Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera, one hit away from 3,000: 'I think I might cry'

·7 min read

A rare moment occurred Thursday morning.

Miguel Cabrera, the future Hall of Famer, held court in front of his locker in the Detroit Tigers' clubhouse. He is one hit away from becoming the 33rd player in MLB history to reach 3,000 hits.

The focus is on him, and he accepted the attention gracefully. A herd of reporters gathered around his locker, and Cabrera just kept talking — about his emotions approaching the milestone, about his desire to win, about Venezuela, about the Tigers' future, about his family, about the late Al Kaline and much more.

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"I think I might cry," Cabrera said.

Tigers designated hitter Miguel Cabrera looks on during an at-bat in the eighth inning of the Tigers' 7-4 loss on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Tigers designated hitter Miguel Cabrera looks on during an at-bat in the eighth inning of the Tigers' 7-4 loss on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The 39-year-old, in his 20th season, went 3-for-4 in Wednesday's 5-2 loss to the New York Yankees at Comerica Park, putting him on the doorstep of becoming the seventh player in history with at least 500 home runs and 3,000 hits.

"It's about winning," Cabrera said.

His father, also named Miguel, called him from Venezuela on Wednesday night, explaining he had to close his eyes during Cabrera's final at-bat. He struck out swinging in the eighth inning, leaving him at 2,999 hits.

"When my kids play, I never sit still," Cabrera said. "When you play, you control the game. You strike out or whatever, but you control the game. When you're in the stands, you get more nervous."

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For Thursday's game against the Yankees, Cabrera's mother, Gregoria, and the rest of his family — wife Rosangel, daughter Isabella and son Christopher — will be in attendance. He joked with his son that he would reach safely on a bunt for his 3,000 hit.

"He said, 'Dad, come on,'" Cabrera said.

Cabrera has one bunt single in his career.

It happened in 2006.

"Today, I will bunt," Cabrera reiterated.

The counting board for Tigers DH Miguel Cabrera chances to 2,999  during the sixth inning of the Tigers' 5-3 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday, April 20, 2022 at Comerica Park.
The counting board for Tigers DH Miguel Cabrera chances to 2,999 during the sixth inning of the Tigers' 5-3 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday, April 20, 2022 at Comerica Park.

"I will bunt today, first pitch," Cabrera said, laughing. "(Yankees left-hander Jordan Montgomery) will throw me a slider inside. You already know — bunt. Man on the third, base hit RBI, baby. First inning."

Cabrera, in a more serious tone, said the perfect situation for his 3,000th hit would be a home run for the win, just like the first hit of his MLB career in June 2003. Playing for the Florida Marlins, he launched a walk-off home run in the 11th inning to beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Christopher wants his father to dance if he hits a home run.

"He showed me a dance," Cabrera said. "I said, 'I can't dance.' He told me I have to do something. ... You know who is his favorite player? (Ronald) Acuna. I said, 'Now I know where you get that, because I didn't teach you that.' Acuna and (Ozzie) Albies."

As for Acuna, he is one of the players Cabrera studies these days. Acuna, 24, won the 2018 National League Rookie of the Year, is a two-time All-Star and has spent all four MLB seasons with the Atlanta Braves.

Cabrera also watches Shohei Ohtani, the two-way superstar for the Los Angeles Angels. Ohtani, 27, earned the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year and the 2021 AL MVP. He hit 43 home runs last season, to go with a 3.18 ERA in 23 starts as a pitcher.

On Wednesday, Cincinnati Reds star Joey Votto went to Twitter to share his thoughts on Cabrera's greatness: "@Miguel Cabrera I used to low-key creep your at-bats in my hotel room EVERY SINGLE NIGHT after our games. I knew I had to study the best to beat the best. Good luck with your final steps to 3000. You are a joy to watch."

Detroit Tigers designated hitter Miguel Cabrera gets ready to bat against the New York Yankees during the first inning at Comerica Park on Thursday, April 21, 2022.
Detroit Tigers designated hitter Miguel Cabrera gets ready to bat against the New York Yankees during the first inning at Comerica Park on Thursday, April 21, 2022.

The message from Votto — 2,033 career hits — came as a pleasant surprise to Cabrera. He then evaluated what stands out about Votto's approach at the plate. Votto, the 2010 NL MVP, led the majors in walks in 2013, 2015 and 2017. He also paced the NL in walks in 2011 and 2012.

"He takes walks and doesn't swing at bad pitches," Cabrera said. "Sometimes when I got men in scoring position, I expand my zones. If it's this much outside, I swing. He doesn't swing. He's so disciplined. He always has a crazy approach. For me, I'm aggressive. Like Pujols. Pujols is aggressive."

Cabrera will be one of two Tigers — along with Kaline (3,007 hits) and Ty Cobb (4,189 hits) — to accomplish 3,000. Kaline, a Hall of Famer, played 22 seasons for the Tigers, from 1953-74, earning the nickname "Mr. Tiger" for his longtime connection to the organization.

Kaline died at age 85 in April 2020.

"I miss him," Cabrera said.

The most recent player to join the 3,000 hit club was Albert Pujols in May 2018.

Before Pujols, it was Adrian Beltre in July 2017.

The next closest player to 3,000 hits is Robinson Cano (2,629), playing his 17th MLB season this year at age 39. He has one more season remaining on his contract with the New York Mets.

"That number is really hard to get," Cabrera said. "Don't get me wrong, I always dreamed about this moment. I was always thinking about, in your career where you're going to be. I'm in a good position right now. I want to enjoy the moment, but at the same time, I want to think the same thing I thought when I first came up — play to win with my teammates. It's not fair to say, 'Oh, I get 3,000 because of me.' No, I get 3,000 because of my teammates, my coaches, my manager, everyone."

Tigers DH Miguel Cabrera after his single against Yankees pitcher Luis Severino during the fourth inning of the Tigers' 5-3 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday, April 20, 2022 at Comerica Park.
Tigers DH Miguel Cabrera after his single against Yankees pitcher Luis Severino during the fourth inning of the Tigers' 5-3 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday, April 20, 2022 at Comerica Park.

Cabrera will be the first player from Venezuela to achieve the milestone.

With that comes a message from the country's greatest baseball player.

"It's a dream come true," said Cabrera, who grew up idolizing Venezuelan Dave Concepcion, a 19-year MLB vet. "If there's any kid in Venezuela that sees that, I want you to know that if I can make it, you can make it."

Here's more of what Cabrera said Thursday morning:

On moving down in the batting order: "I said to skip (A.J. Hinch), make the lineup better. I don't care where I'm hitting — seventh, eighth, whatever. I want to be in the lineup. I feel comfortable hitting fifth."

On changing his approach: "My hitting coach told me to forget about the big ball, play small ball and make contact with the ball. That helped me a lot."

On trying for 3,000 vs. the Yankees: "I don't want to hurt peoples feeling, but it's the Yankees. At some point in my career, when I signed (in 2003), a scout from the Yankees said, 'If you're going to make it to the big leagues, you're going to be a pitcher.' They fired him. True story. He got fired from the Yankees after that, in 2003. You know the Yankees, big money. Like in soccer — (Real) Madrid."

On Javier Báez's thumb injury: "We need you, we need you in the (expletive) lineup. When he's in the lineup, we're going to be dangerous. And Torkelson, he's going to be (expletive) good. Short to the ball, I always tell them (young players). If you're going to hit for average and power, you got to be short to the ball."

On Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene: "Oh my god, these guys are going to be (expletive) good. ... Riley was our best hitter in spring training. It was a big loss. ... They're really good. They know the (strike) zone at such a young age. They know the strike zone. They know what they want to hit. They know what (the pitcher is) going to throw. And they're always ready."

On Torkelson: "His approach. He's getting comfortable. When people get comfortable like that, it's special. He's going to be dangerous. ... He's better than me. I don't care about the numbers, I think he's better. ... He's going to be really good. He's very calm."

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera, near 3,000: 'I think I might cry'