Cabrera gives back to Detroit with dinner, auction
Triple Crown winner hosts event intended to help renovate youth baseball fields
TROY, Mich. -- Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown took him from being one of baseball's great hitters to a superstar. Monday he took part in the other side of superstardom.
As Cabrera stood in a side room at the Capital Grille for photographs Monday evening, he did his best to be the gracious host. For close to an hour, people lined up -- fans, colleagues, coaches, even teammates. Cabrera smiled for them all and thanked them. This was an occasion for them all to take a photo with a player on track for the Hall of Fame.
More importantly, this was a chance for one of baseball's greats to give back. Monday's dinner, and the live auction that went with it, raised money for the Miguel Cabrera Foundation, as well as the Detroit Tigers Foundation, an affiliate of Ilitch Charities.
At the peak of his career, this is Cabrera's opportunity to make an impact off the field.
"I'm very happy, very excited," he said during a few quiet seconds. "I feel proud, because I was a little nervous no one would show up. When I saw all these people, I was very happy."
Actually, the event sold out a long time ago. More than 200 people bought tickets to attend, filling the restaurant to its limits. Among Cabrera's teammates taking their off-day to join him were Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Joaquin Benoit, Darin Downs, Don Kelly, Matt Tuiasosopo, Ramon Santiago, Brayan Pena and Al Alburquerque. Al Kaline, Jim Leyland, Dave Dombrowski, Al Avila, Tom Brookens, Lloyd McClendon and Rafael Belliard were all there, as well.
"In all my years of pro ball, any kind of effort players have to give back, we try to support," Hunter said. "It's a fraternity. As a teammate of mine, even guys on other teams, you want to help."
Tickets raised money, as did a silent auction of memorabilia ranging from items celebrating Cabrera's historic 2012 season to Justin Verlander items, autographs from other Tigers greats, even photos and items from Detroit's other teams.
Proceeds went toward the two foundations, with an emphasis on helping renovate youth baseball fields. Cabrera's foundation just helped renovate a field in his native Maracay, Venezuela, but also has targeted locations in Detroit and Miami, his offseason home.
"I try to be even," he said.
Among the goals this year, both with his foundation and the Detroit Tigers Foundation, is to repair a baseball diamond at Clark Park in southwest Detroit. The park received a big donation a few years ago from musician Jack White, who grew up in the neighborhood. Now, Cabrera and the Tigers want to help renovate another.
"We're trying to save fields, to have a chance for kids to go out there and have fun, try to give them the opportunity to go out there and stay off the street," Cabrera said. "I'm trying to give them a chance to play baseball for fun. When you're a kid, you play to have fun."
Cabrera didn't grow up anywhere near Detroit, and didn't break into the big leagues as a Tiger. However, he's carrying forward the work that other Tigers stars did before him.
Magglio Ordonez made an impact on southwest Detroit during his time as a Tiger, establishing a scholarship fund for deserving high school graduates and making a major donation to renovate two baseball diamonds and build another at St. Hedwig Park.
Carlos Guillen did his part, welcoming deserving kids to Tigers games and helping with clinics. He also made a major impact in his hometown of Maracay, Venezuela, helping fix ballfields, and donating money and equipment to hospitals.
Ordonez and Guillen were Cabrera's mentors when he joined the Tigers. Now he's carrying on the effort in his own way, having established his foundation about a year ago.
"When you have time, you need to give something back," he said. "It's not only about playing baseball. It's about interacting with the fans and trying to do something for the kids."