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Berardino: Cabrera is a Star in the Making


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BERARDINO: Cabrera is a star in the making

Published July 15, 2004


HOUSTON ? History will show Miguel Cabrera, in the first All-Star at-bat of his young career, grounded out to shortstop against Javier Vazquez in the fifth inning here Tuesday night.


Two innings later, Cabrera, the Marlins' right fielder, struck out on a 97-mph fastball from Minnesota's Joe Nathan.


Those would be Cabrera's only at-bats on a hot, sticky night at Minute Maid Park. Absolutely no one expects them to be his final cuts on the All-Star stage.


The Maracay Masher turned 21 less than three months ago, and already he can cross the following off his list of career goals:


Cleanup hitter. World Series ring. All-Star appearance.


"That's unbelievable, man," Cabrera said. "I never could have imagined that. That's something where you would imagine you need to play for a lot of years, or at least four or five, to have that happen."


The fastest-rising athlete in Venezuela snapped his fingers.


"I've got only one year in the big leagues and those things have happened to me already," he said. "I'm very fortunate."


Only three players in history have been able to claim such a double at a younger age: Mickey Mantle, Claudell Washington and Hal Newhouser. Only Washington failed to make the Hall of Fame.


Where Cabrera's career goes from here is anybody's guess, but all the early indicators grab you by the lapels and scream in your face, "Do you have any idea what you're witnessing here?"


He certainly has gained the attention of his contemporaries, who voted him onto the All-Star team ahead of Steve Finley, Jim Edmonds, Bobby Abreu and others. The mere mention of Cabrera's name to any number of All-Stars this week brought knowing smiles and looks of wide-eyed admiration.


"He's a lucky guy with a lot of talent," Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa said. "He's going to be unbelievable. He's going to be a big, big superstar."


By the time Sosa made his first All-Star Game, he was 26 and had already been traded twice. Thanks to Cabrera and the Marlins, the Slammin' One is still looking for his first World Series trip.


"I'm happy for Miguel," said Rangers second baseman Alfonso Soriano, the ex-Yankee. "This is his second year in the big leagues, and you see the numbers he has. Maybe this year, maybe next year, but in the future you will see him as MVP."


Soriano and Cabrera met last fall when their teams faced off in the World Series. They became fast friends and hung out together in the Dominican this winter during the Caribbean Series.


Soriano made his first World Series at 23 but still hasn't won a ring. He became an All-Star the following year and says the motivational aspect of the honor should drive Cabrera to even greater heights.


"You say, `Oh, man, I want to be there next year, too. I have to keep working hard so I can make it again,'" Soriano said. "I think that's going to help him a lot."


Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols has opened his career with three unparalleled years and, fresh off signing a $100 million contract, is making it four. He, too, is amazed by what Cabrera has done so far.


"I'm pretty sure this is not going to be his last All-Star Game," said Pujols, the player to whom Cabrera is most often compared. "There's going to be many, many more. I just wish him the best so that he can stay healthy and just respect this game like he's been doing."


Pujols was 21 when he made the All-Star Game as a rookie in 2001. His advice to Cabrera?


"Just keep focused," he said. "Straight line. Don't let anything get in his head. And keep doing the best that he can. Everything is going his way. I'm really happy for him."


Then there was Pudge Rodriguez, along with former Marlins third base coach Ozzie Guillen the biggest influence on Cabrera's rookie season. The future Hall of Fame catcher became an All-Star at 20 but didn't reach the World Series for another 11 years, and only then with Cabrera's help.


"Cabrera is a great player," said Rodriguez, an All-Star for the 11th time but the first as a Detroit Tiger. "He's a great hitter. He likes to listen to people. He likes to learn about baseball. He's already a superstar, and he's going to get better."


Better? Pudge smiled.


"Cabrera is not Cabrera yet," he said. "He's getting there, but I think he's going to be a lot better player than he is right now. What we've got to do is just let him play. I think, for me, he's going to be an MVP pretty soon in the National League."


Barry Bonds turns 40 next week. That means the award should soon reopen to mere mortals (and immortals-in-training). Cabrera certainly qualifies.


"I don't think he knows how good he is yet," Rodriguez said. "I think he plays the game because he loves the game, but he doesn't know how good he is or how good he can be as a player. He's going to find out."


Many times last year, Pudge would pull the kid aside, fix him with a stare and tell him how good he could be. Cabrera, taught well by his parents, would drop his head and smile sheepishly.


"No, no, no," he'd say softly, ever humble.


"He's a kid," Rodriguez said. "He's still young. But he knows he's a good player and he's going to be a great player. You're going to see him winning MVPs. More than one. He's capable of doing those kind of things."


All we've got to do is just let him play.


Mike Berardino can be reached at mberardino@sun-sentinel.com.

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If you've ever read about his parents, the way they brought him up and what kind of people they are, you'd probably agree with me that the kid is what he says he is. Hell, they wanted him to sign when he was 17 instead of 16, but the offers were plentyful and heavy, so they decided to sign a year early.

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Guest Juanky

You guys really think Cabs is 21?


And that age on Soriano is incorrect I believe.




He's 12. I think he shaves less than I do, and thats not much.

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