The Daily News is running a great feature on Melky Cabrera. Here are the highlights:
Melky Cabrera began playing baseball at age 3, with a stick and a rock and a plea to anyone who visited the family’s humble roadside home on Carretera Sanchez, in the village of Haina, not far from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.
“Pitch it! Pitch it,” he would say, holding out a rock.
“He was born with a ball in his blood,” says Maria Teresa Aspacio, 47, Cabrera’s mother. “He loved to play ball more than anything.”
Cabrera wakes up in his New Jersey apartment, an upscale, low-rise building a few miles from the George Washington Bridge, and a million figurative miles from the cramped home he shared with his mother, grandmother, two older sisters and three other relatives growing up. Melky slept in a room with his mother.
The apartment is in the same complex as Robinson Cano’s: his fellow Dominican and closest friend on the team.
Through the end of last year and right into spring training, Cabrera put special emphasis on his defense – reading balls off the bat, improving his jumps. His speed is good, but not enough to outrun balls. As recently as a few weeks ago, Joe Torre lifted him for a defensive replacement in the late innings. Now he makes stellar plays almost regularly.
Says Cabrera, “I think that (inside-the-park-home-run) pushed me hard and made me better.”
Cabrera’s commitment to his loved ones is all over him, literally. He has the names of his mother and grandmother – Teresa and Delores – tattooed on his back, inside a baseball logo. Inside his cap are the words, “God, Teresa, Melky.”
Everyone seems to love Melky’s name. Whoever heard of a Melky? “I wanted to name him Dario, after his godfather,” his mother says. Her daughter, Ladi, came up with Melky on the way home from the hospital.
A natural lefty hitter, Cabrera taught himself to switch-hit as a youngster, after a Dominican scout said to him, “You are not going to be so tall. You will make it to the big leagues faster as a switch-hitter.” It’s no coincidence that Cabrera’s favorite ballplayer as a youngster was a switch-hitter – Chipper Jones.