Crown him: Cabrera is king of native Venezuela
Miggy might be remembered as greatest hitter from baseball-crazed country
KANSAS CITY -- Austin Jackson doesn't know about the parade of cars and the cheers in Miguel Cabrera's La Pedrera neighborhood in Maracay, Venezuela.
Prince Fielder probably has no idea baseball fans are celebrating from Maracaibo, in the western part of the country, to Puerto La Cruz out east. How could Fielder know there's a party going on in Caracas or in Puerto Ayacucho, near the border of Brazil, in honor of their teammate?
The rest of the baseball world will know Cabrera as the 12th player to win the Triple Crown -- the first player since Carl Yastrzemski accomplished the feat in 1967 and first player ever from Latin America -- but to Jackson and Fielder, he's just "Miggy," their teammate and good buddy, a player who still isn't comfortable with all of the attention he has been receiving lately.
Cabrera better get used to it. The onetime prince of baseball in Venezuela is now the new king.
"He's the most humble person I know. He's awesome, man. He's the best ever," Fielder said. "He won the Triple Crown and he comes in, sits down with us and he's just like, 'Yeah.' It's awesome to see a guy who has been blessed like that still be the same guy."
You can argue that Cabrera will never be viewed the same way again, especially not in Venezuela, and especially after he finished the season with a .330 average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs. There's a belief that his Triple Crown is the biggest thing to happen to the baseball-crazed country since Luis Aparicio became the first Venezuelan player inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1984.
Others say it's the biggest baseball-related event in the country ever.
If that is the case, Cabrera's Triple Crown is more significant than Ozzie Guillen becoming the first Venezuelan manager to win the World Series in 2005. Cabrera's feat is bigger than Felix Hernandez winning the American League Cy Young in 2010 or Johan Santana taking home the trophy in 2004 and 2006.
Bigger than Davey Concepcion and the Big Red Machine in the 1970s?
In the annals of baseball history in Venezuela, Chico Carrasquel is remembered as a baseball pioneer, Omar Vizquel is revered for his Gold Gloves, and sluggers like Andres Galarraga, Magglio Ordonez and Tony Armas are admired for their prowess at the plate. But it is Cabrera who might be remembered as the greatest hitter to ever come from the country.
"I know my country was watching and I appreciate all of the support," Cabrera said. "This is a special moment for all us, not just a personal moment. It's an emotional day for all of us. I still can't believe it happened."
Cabrera was showered with applause from the crowd at Kauffman Stadium when he stepped into the batter's box in the first inning and left the game to a standing ovation in the bottom of the fourth. He was watching television in the clubhouse with Justin Verlander and Fielder when the news of his Triple Crown became a official. Verlander, Cabrera's most outspoken supporter in the race for the AL Most Valuable Player Award, gifted the slugger a watch.
"Clearly, he was extraordinary and you can't say enough about a guy that was that awesome," Fielder said. "He's one of the greatest guys to be around and one of the best teammates ever. Without him moving to third base, I would not be able to witness history and I'm very thankful that I am on his team."
Venezuela may know Cabrera as a national treasure, but Jackson and Fielder also know him as the team comedian.
"He's the biggest kid in here," Jackson said. "He's mature, but he just keeps it fun. He's cracking jokes during the game and always trying to keep it loose. I remember a couple of times I came to the dugout with my head down after striking out and he made me laugh by making fun of my swing. He's hilarious."
But make no mistake, Cabrera has a serious side.
"From a team standpoint, he's definitely a leader but he leads by example," Jackson said. "He's not the type of guy that will cheerlead but he gets in his moments when he'll get excited in the dugout and try to pump us up."
Although Fielder might not fully grasp Cabrera's new status in Venezuela, there is one thing he certainly understands.
"He's is the best right-handed hitter in the game," Fielder said. "Boom!"