Thanks to Miguel Cabrera, fans at Detroit’s Comerica Park were treated to both unusual sights in the bottom of the first. Facing Cleveland Indians pitcher and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber with a man on first, Cabrera launched a shot to right field that quickly became hard to distinguish from all the bits of white stuff floating around the stadium.
Apparently unsure of what became of the baseball, Cabrera played it safe by sliding into second before getting back up and resuming his trip around the bases with a twirling home run gesture.
“When I see the umpire, he said home run, and I said, ‘Okay, thank you.’ … It was a good slide, though.”
It was also the 488th homer of the 37-year-old slugger’s career and his 350th with Detroit. That tied him with Al Kaline as the only players with that many home runs plus at least 2,000 hits in a Tigers uniform, even if it took a moment for everyone in the ballpark to realize history had just been made.
“The home run, I never even saw the ball,” said Cleveland Manager Terry Francona.
“It was almost kind of laughable for everybody that we were playing baseball in an environment like that,” Detroit Manager A.J. Hinch said. “It would come and go, then it got kind of warm when the sun came out. It’s always fun on Opening Day to take those mental snapshots and enjoy the moment.”
Hinch, who won a World Series in Houston, is in his first season with Detroit after sitting out 2020 as part of his punishment for the Astros’ cheating scandal. Cabrera has struggled with injuries for the past few seasons, including a 2018 campaign in which he was limited to just 38 games, but he showed some athletic ability Thursday in making a diving stop on a fourth-inning groundball that Hinch said saved a run.
Of Cabrera’s first-inning clout, the manager said, “I didn’t think on a day like today too many people would hit it out of the ballpark. Especially oppo [opposite field]. That’s a pretty strong man, to hit it through the wind and through the snow.”
Attendance at the game was listed at 8,000, approximately the maximum allowed at Detroit’s ballpark amid the coronavirus pandemic. Cabrera said the atmosphere was “awesome.”
“Coming off last year, a tough year with covid, now we come back and have the fans in the stadium,” he said. “It was a lot of energy. I was excited, also excited to be back at first base. It was a special day for all of us.”
As for the snowy conditions early on, the Venezuela native joked that he was “used to it,” adding, “It’s normal for me.”
There wasn’t much normal about Cabrera’s home run, but it certainly provided the season with a memorable opening act.