Miguel Cabrera influenced Nick Castellanos

Nick Castellanos, a South Florida native, remembers attending a World Series game in Miami when Miguel Cabrera hit a first-inning homer off Roger Clemens to introduce himself on the national stage.

A decade later and they were teammates with the Detroit Tigers. Castellanos spent the first seven years of his career playing alongside Cabrera, learning from a future Hall of Famer.

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“Never starstruck,” Castellanos said. “It’s more I remember 18 years old and seeing him, and I’m like, ‘all right, I want to hit with him, so he can see I can hit, too.”

Jun 11, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Detroit Tigers right fielder Nicholas Castellanos (9) is congratulated by designated hitter Miguel Cabrera (24) after hitting a home run against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

When Castellanos recorded a video message ahead of Cabrera’s 500th career homer last month – Cabrera is also 37 hits from 3,000 – he said, “I’m here in so many ways because of you.”

Castellanos has kept a journal for sketches and stray thoughts since 2017 and there are pieces of advice from Cabrera.

“A lot of the lessons that I learned from Miggy is just thinking about how he was now,” Castellanos said. “How he handles certain things, how he handles success, how he handles failure, how he’s in the dugout, how he is on the bus, how he is on the plane.”

Jun 1, 2018; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (left) and right fielder Nicholas Castellanos (right) jog off the field during the sixth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Eugenio Suárez was another player who grew up watching Cabrera, a fellow Venezuelan, and ended up as one of his teammates. Suárez played his rookie season with the Tigers in 2014.

“When I was young, I always watched Miggy when he played in winter ball in Venezuela,” Suárez said. “He always was one of the biggest baseball players we had from Venezuela. I always see the way he played, the way he played third base when he was young. He always played hard and hit the ball with that beautiful swing he has.

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“We remember everything about Miggy because everybody talked about Miggy. Everybody wanted to be like Miggy. That was me, too. I always thought, ‘I want to be like him.’ And God gave me the opportunity to play with him.”

Aug 19, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers shortstop Eugenio Suarez (30), first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) and right fielder Torii Hunter (48) talk prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Suárez says he always marveled at Cabrera’s ability to drive middle-away pitches. It’s a reason why Cabrera became the 28th player in Major League history to reach 500 homers.

“He always told me you have to be ready to hit the fastball middle-away,” Suárez said. “And you have to see the ball to hit the ball every time. When we’re talking about Miggy and I think about my time in Detroit with him, I feel so proud that I spent a little bit with him. I learned so much, how to respect the game, how to play the game the right way.”

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