Maybe a dozen players in the history of Detroit sports have ever been the face of the franchise or the city for a full decade.
One of those people, former Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, was on hand at Comerica Park when another one of those people, Detroit Tigers star Miguel Cabrera, recorded the 3,000th hit of his major league career.
“It was amazing, it was so cool to watch his career,” Stafford told the Free Press during during the Tigers’ 13-0 win Saturday in Game 1 of a doubleheader. “He got here in 2008, I got here in 2009 and being able to watch him do his thing from a far for so many years was special.
“To be able to luck out and be in the house when he gets it done and gets 3,000 is something I’ll always remember.”
Cabrera achieved the feat in the first inning when he ripped a single to right field against the Colorado Rockies.
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Cabrera wasn’t done on the afternoon, hitting a single up the middle with the bases loaded in the sixth inning, scoring two runs to pad the Tigers lead, before Eric Haase came in to pinch run and the Venezuelan slugger left the field to a standing ovation.
Stafford was in town for the groundbreaking of the SAY Detroit Play Center — an after school program for kids in the city.
But when Cabrera was sitting on 2,999 hits entering play, Stafford made his way to the ballpark to watch the feat along side 37,566 fans — the most at Comerica Park in a non-Opening Day game since July 15, 2017.
A number of those same Detroit fans continued to pull for Stafford this year in the NFL playoffs, as he led the Los Angeles Rams to a Super Bowl victory.
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Stafford’s presence was announced to the fans in the bottom of the eighth inning, who gave him a standing ovation, many taking off their caps to salute as he waved and pointed to his shirt that said “Cabrera” on it.
“It’s a credit to the people of this city, pulling for people they care about, people they’ve cheered for for a long time and people who do it the right way,” Stafford said. “He’s the No. 1 example of that, just an unbelievable talent, a guy who sacrifices everything he’s got, brings it every week, every season.
“It’s just been really cool to watch him do his thing for such a long time.”
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Former Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander also shared a message from Houston, shared on social media by Bally Sports Detroit.
“Miggy what’s up man, congratulations on 3,000 that is just so incredible, I’m so happy for you and your family,” Verlander said. “I’m so proud to be able to be your teammate for so long and see so many of those hits in so many clutch situations.
“What you’ve been able to accomplish is nothing short of amazing, congratulations my friend.”