Detroit Tigers veteran Miguel Cabrera became the 28th player in MLB history to hit 500 home runs Sunday at Rogers Center in Toronto, with left-handed starter Steven Matz being transferred in the opposite direction of right midfield.
Tigers director of player relations and authenticity Jordan Field has been preparing for the historic moment at Camden Yards in Baltimore since Aug. 11. Then he looked Cabrera put number 499 over the wall in left midfield.
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“I’ve worked in baseball for almost 20 years,” Field told the Free Press before Sunday’s game. “I had the privilege of serving on an All-Star Game guest committee and being a part of two American League Championship teams. Working behind the scenes on this milestone is the greatest honor of my career.”
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Bullpen-catcher Tim Remes picked up the milestone baseball, which crossed the wall and landed near the visiting batting cage. The ball was authenticated by MLB and given to Cabrera. The 38-year-old said he appreciated Remes for taking care of it.
“I’m going to keep it somewhere in my house,” Cabrera said. “I’m excited.”
Hours before Cabrera’s Toronto milestone, Field sat in the dugout explaining to the Free Press how the Tigers and MLB were poised to authenticate the historic 500th home run baseball.
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How does the authentication process work?
“For every Major League game at Comerica Park, we have two authenticators working, one in each dugout. They come from an outside company, hosted by Major League Baseball. They all have a law enforcement background. They deal with game-used items. like evidence for a lawsuit If they don’t see it, if it’s out of their sight they won’t authenticate it Every baseball that comes off the field is rolled over to one of our authenticators and they set up a hologram Using the Statcast data each hologram will tell you who threw it, the type of field, the speed of the field, who hit it, the launch angle, the speed of the bat, the distance traveled and the outcome of the game. phenomenal. Unless the ball hits the stands, home run or foul ball, we get it and record the data. Every game I get 45-95 balls, and we go through each hologram and check each one individually.”
How does all this play into the Cabrera’s pursuit of 500 home runs?
“As we approached the Cabrera home run milestone and as we approached the 3,000 hit milestone, we developed a matchday collectible sheet that lists all the items from that game that we want verified. For a milestone as important as 500, it runs from the dirt in the right-handed batter’s box to his cleats, pants, belt, jersey, batting gloves, helmet, hat, every item Miguel has an exclusive deal with Tigers Authentics, where we are the source for all of his Him and I both feel that while we can monetize the seller’s items, the priority here is to give the Baseball Hall of Fame what they want, let Miguel keep what he wants in his personal collection, and preserve the Ilitch archives. give them the items they want. What’s left can be sold. That’s how we approach the milestones. Our priority is to preserve history.”
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If you can’t authenticate a ball that leaves the authenticator’s view, such as a home run going into the stands, how are you going to authenticate Cabrera’s 500th home run?
“We’ve put a lot of effort into Major League Baseball and we will be able to. Every ball thrown at Miguel after his 499th home run is stenciled with a letter number and covertly marked with a liquid that only MLB authenticators can see. black light liquid that we see under black light but this is a unique type of liquid that only authenticators can see When Miggy is announced and he is hitting the ball boy comes out and replaces the balls by the referee When Miggy’s at bat, he takes the balls back and puts the regular balls back in play. The umpire and ball boy will know which ball – m-5, m-76, m-89 – that was hit in the stands. We will then retrieve that ball, identify the secret marker and put the hologram on it. For home run 501, it will be back to normal. When it’s in the stands, we can authenticate it.”
Is there anything else to know about the authentication process for this milestone?
“I think of it as a security program. It’s a way of safeguarding baseball history. That’s definitely how I approach it. I don’t have a law enforcement background, but I’m a recovering attorney, so I can understand why it’s a security program. For Tigers Authentics, we donate a portion of all proceeds to the Detroit Tigers Foundation, which I think is always remarkable. Our players like that, our fans like that. When they make a purchase, they know a portion goes to charity. The important thing is to know that with this baseball and the 3,000th goal, we know with 100% certainty that we have the right one.”
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What did Cabrera ask for from the items used by the game? What can we expect in the Hall of Fame?
Miguel wants the ball. Miguel’s priority is the ball. The Baseball Hall of Fame has requested the batting helmet. That’s all they asked for. I suspect that when the dust settles in the season Miguel will also be happy for maybe the bat, maybe the jersey. But he asked for the ball. One of the main reasons I travel is not just to make sure we verify everything on that list, but also to have a friendly chat with a fan hopefully interested in sharing the history with the man who hit it. … I suspect the bat or the jersey will go to our corporate records. The items such as his cleats and his batting gloves can be made available upon action.’
How has this experience, traveling in anticipation of 500 home runs, been for you?
“It’s been an amazing experience. I’ve had such a unique career with the Tigers organisation. To be here to see this history unfold first hand is something I will never forget. I’m not used to it.” to be away from home I am not used to being away from my family But the opportunity to see Miguel make baseball history is extremely special to me I take the responsibility of safeguarding and protecting that history very seriously I think that’s why Miguel partnered with the Tigers for this exclusive game-used relationship. He knows that every item gets a hologram. I don’t think he’s doing it for his personal collection. I think he it’s because he respects his status in baseball, and he wants fans and collectors I think Miguel is probably number 1 and he wants number 500. Anything in between is for those who cheer and support him.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.