Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols in All-Star Game spotlight
Brilliantly but metronomically productive for the past two decades, the two sluggers never quite seemed to command the attention that some superstars have received. They certainly never demanded it.
This week, however, they’re receiving it. Rightly.
Commissioner Rob Manfred recently chose Cabrera and Pujols as legacy selections to the 92nd All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium. And while no one or two players could possibly be bigger than All-Star week, it’s clear that the two legends are drawing a ton of attention.
Pujols made it clear he doesn’t think the show is about him, but when the Commissioner calls you personally …
“I thought about it,” he said, “but it’s hard to say no to the Commissioner.”
If Pujols had to give it a moment’s thought, Cabrera decidedly did not.
“No,” he said with a laugh. “It was easy. It was easy, because next year is going to be my last year in baseball. So to say no to this opportunity was going to be hard. It was an easy choice.”
So they’re here, soaking it all in, grinning from ear to ear — even through media sessions, which aren’t always a player’s most beloved part of the All-Star experience. Pujols is even participating in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby.
And while they’re making sure to take in as much as they can, they’re also giving. Maybe more than they even realize. That’s because many of the younger All-Stars grew up watching, even idolizing them. And for Dominican and Venezuelan players, Pujols and Cabrera are more than baseball stars. They’re more than two of the greatest right-handed hitters to play. They’re absolute icons.
“To see [Cabrera] here on the field in the All-Star Game, it’s too much for [me],” said Braves star William Contreras, who hails from Venezuela. “It’s honestly unbelievable.”
“Two legends of baseball, Latin players, guys you see yourself in,” said Nationals superstar Juan Soto.
Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was born in Canada but spent much of his youth in the Dominican. And of course, he’s the son of one of the greatest Dominican players. But Vladimir Guerrero Sr. is not the only father figure to him.
“He’s very special,” Guerrero said of Pujols.
“It’s like a father-son relationship. Every time we have a chance, his advice [is] unbelievable. So I try to take everything from him so I can get better.”
And while the opportunity would be special for Pujols and Cabrera regardless, they’re fully aware of their parallel statures in the game. And they’re aware of the significance of sharing this moment together.
Pujols debuted in 2001, Cabrera in ’03. Pujols won MVP awards in 2005, ’08, and ’09, Cabrera in ’12 and ’13. While they’ve never been teammates, they’ve always performed in the context of each other’s greatness.
“Miggy and me, the same class almost, I think I’m two years [longer] in the league than him,” Pujols said. “What he’s done in this game, this guy is one of the best hitters that I’ve seen. It’s just pretty special.”
Oh, and they’re also good friends.
“I’m excited … especially because Albert Pujols is here,” Cabrera said. “To me, it’s like a dream come true. To be around here, to be around a legend like Albert. I’m looking forward to enjoying it, to having fun.”
That makes him about like everybody else in the two clubhouses.
“They were here in my first [All-Star Game],” said Padres superstar Manny Machado, born in Miami and of Dominican descent. “And now I’m here in one of their last. That’s special. They’re two of the greatest hitters to ever play this game. To share the field with them, it’s always an honor. Man, these two are legends in our game.”