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For Cabrera, it was father knows best


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MIAMI -- Baseball was in Miguel Cabrera's blood from the time he was born.


Growing up in Maracay, Venezuela, the sport was ingrained in the Marlins' three-time All-Star third baseman.


Cabrera's father, also named Miguel, played and coached the sport, and his uncle, David Torres, advanced as high as the Double-A level in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.


To Cabrera, celebrating Father's Day has special meaning because his dad is his best friend. And as much as Cabrera was raised on the game, his father always stressed academics.


"He was my manager when I was growing up," Cabrera said. "He always put my studies first, for me to be able to play baseball. He was always asking more and more from me in school and playing ball. He helped me to work harder and harder for him and for my mom."


The hard work has paid off, as Cabrera is one of the National League's elite hitters. Now, in his fourth big-league season, he isn't just one of the top young players in the game -- he's one of the best players, period.


As a child in baseball-obsessed Venezuela, Cabrera was big for his age. From the time he was 12, he was playing against older competition. The way he was crushing the ball then, coupled with his size, his name became widely known in Maracay at an early age.


Those who saw him play figured he would emerge as a big leaguer. Then a shortstop, his coaches said Cabrera reminded them of Giants shortstop Omar Vizquel, another Venezuelan native.


Not that Cabrera matched Vizquel in the field, but the instincts and first step Cabrera showed in the field reminded them of the slick-fielding shortstop.


When Cabrera played, it became a family event. As the young slugger moved up in competition, his father was always there to offer support.


"I want to thank him for everything he taught me," Cabrera said. "I will follow your advice to do everything as good as you taught me."


Cabrera now is a father to a daughter, Rosangel. As she grows up, Cabrera does not plan on pushing her into sports. But if she does, he would rather her play volleyball than baseball.



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