Miguel Cabrera: Tigers Man In The Middle

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    The long Major League Baseball season is near its conclusion and the Detroit Tigers are holding on to a slim lead in the American League Central Division.

    There are eight games left in the season and they play three against the Chicago White Sox in Chicago and the final three games of the season are at home against the Minnesota Twins.

    If the Tigers do hang on and make the MLB Playoffs, they will need the All-Star bat of first baseman Miguel Cabrera.

    “He’s been carrying this team all season,” said manager Jim Leyland. “What I like most is his defense at first has gotten better and better.”

    Concurred shortstop Ramon Santiago: “He’s the heart of the team. He’s a great player and can be one of the best of alltime. He has that kind of talent.”

    Third baseman Brando Inge said Cabrera is the kind of player that makes a difference on any club he plays on.

    “The guy is awesome,” he said. “You can hop on his back and he’ll carry you.”

    Only in his second year as a Tiger, Cabrera, 26, has helped the Tigers position themselves as a potential playoff team.

    “I like this team a lot,” Cabrera said. “The season is almost over, but we have to finish up strong. I feel good about our chances and I think we can win it. We have the right mix of players and they all want to win.

    “We have to go step by step. We have to make the playoffs, win the first round and then we’ll see. Playoff baseball is different because if we start playing good at that time, anybody can beat anybody.”

    In Cabrera’s first year with Tiger in 2008, he led the American League with 37 home runs becoming the first Tigers’ player to lead the league in home runs since Cecil Fielder tied for the lead with 44 home runs in 1991.

    He also tied for the AL lead with 331 total bases, finished third with 127 RBI’s and hit .292.

    As the 2009 season concludes, the 6-foot-4, 240 pound Cabrera leads the Tigers in home runs (30), RBI’s (92), runs scored (88) and hitting average (.332).

    Cabrera said every time he comes to the park he picks up something new.

    “Every day is different,” he said, “and you learn about baseball each time you step on the field. The hard part about hitting is being patient and having a consistent approach everytime you come to the plate.” As a 20-year-old rookie, Cabrera helped the Florida Marlins win a World Series title. He even hit a home run in the Series and clubbed three in the National League Championship Series. Because it all happened so quickly, it appeared he would be back soon, but time has shown him just how hard it is to win a title.

    “I think about getting back to the Series,” he said. “Getting there gave me a lot of experience and taught me about the pressure of playing in big games.

    “Time has also made me appreciate all the things it takes for a team to compete for a title.”

    Last season Leyland switched Cabrera from third to first. At first there was a transition period, but he has gotten better and better.

    “Going to first was one of best things to happen to me,” Cabrera noted. “I feel comfortable there and it has turned out to be my natural position.”

    During the off-season Cabrera, his daughter and his wife reside in Maracay, Venezuela. He has become yet another in a long line of MLB players from that country.

    When Alejandro (Alex) Carrasquel, a pitcher, came to the Washington Senators in 1939, no way did he envision he would lead a parade of Venezuelan born athlete to America.

    Between 1939 and 2007, 216 baseball players born in Venezuela had played in MLB. There are presently 81 active players mfrom that country in MLB. Twenty-six Venezuelans have become All-Stars. Along with Cabrera, who is a four time All-Star (2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007), there are two other Tigers from Venezuela and both have been All-Stars — Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen.

    “Baseball is the biggest sport in my country,” Cabrera said. “When I was about 12 I told my dad I wanted to play this game. He said, ‘Let’s go to work, get stronger, learn the basics and we’ll see what happens.’”

    Ordonez and Guillen both say Miguel is now the No. 1 (current} player in Venezuela and one of the best in baseball, period.

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