07/07/06 7:22 PM EST
Cabrera joins Home Run Derby field
Invitation is a dream come true for Marlins third baseman
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
Ever since then, Cabrera dreamed about swinging for the fences in a home run challenge.
Now the Marlins' three-time All-Star will get a chance to match his power against some of the top sluggers in the game.
Cabrera on Friday was officially named to the Century 21 Home Run Derby, to be held July 10 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
Voted into the All-Star Game for the third straight year by the players, coaches and managers, Cabrera now can add participating in a Home Run Derby to his growing list of achievements.
At age 20 in 2003, the Marlins promoted Cabrera from Double-A in late June. In a little more than half a season, the slugger made a huge impact. He ended up batting cleanup in the World Series, hitting a home run off Roger Clemens in the first inning of Game 4.
"I'm going to have fun," said Cabrera, who has 14 home runs and 60 RBIs to go along with his .342 batting average. "I am going to have fun and be happy."
The Marlins signed Cabrera as a 16-year-old from Venezuela in 1999. A year later, he was impressed by the Home Run Derby heroics of Sosa and Griffey.
"Before I signed, I would see the Home Run Derby, and I wanted to be in it," he said. "Like everybody wants to be in the World Series, I wanted to be in a Home Run Derby."
Marlins manager Joe Girardi considers Cabrera a pure hitter with power, not a "power hitter."
The 23-year-old sensation's numbers reflect that. He batted .323 a year ago. But he also is the youngest player in Major League history to post two straight 30-home run seasons. He has belted 33 home runs in each of his last two seasons, playing in spacious Dolphin Stadium.
Able to use the entire field, Cabrera has power to all fields. He recently connected on a 447-foot upper-deck home run to left at Dolphin Stadium.
Cabrera joins a strong Home Run Derby field. The National League will feature the Marlins star with Mets third baseman David Wright and Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard. Lance Berkman is the fourth NL participant.
The American League will go with Miguel Tejada of the Orioles, David Ortiz of the Red Sox, Toronto's Troy Glaus and Jermaine Dye of the White Sox.
A year ago, Cabrera enthusiastically watched the Home Run Derby from the field, cheering on fellow Venezuelan and close friend Bobby Abreu of the Phillies, who won the event.
What the Marlins as an organization are guarding against is Cabrera not altering his swing in hopes of hitting home runs.
After winning the derby last year, Abreu belted only eight home runs in the second half. The Phillies outfielder had 18 at the All-Star Break.
"I only have one comment about that: Bobby Abreu," Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said on Friday when asked about Cabrera being in the challenge. "He didn't hit too many home runs after the contest."
As a manager, Girardi is a bit cautious that Cabrera doesn't get injured by trying to overswing.
"I think a manager's fears are they don't get hit and hurt in home run contests," Girardi said. "But it's a nice honor for him, and all of us wished him good luck today. You change your approach [to hit home runs]. He knows. He's a bright kid. He knows. I think it's great to represent us, his country and for him. It's a great honor."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.