Escobar was a late-inning defensive replacement at shortstop for Alexei Ramirez and wouldn’t you know it, Cabrera crushed a ground ball his way on the first pitch. Escobar plucked it off the dirt and threw the All-Star out.
What helped was that Escobar had a clue the ball might be coming his way.
“First off, I was very nervous, never been in a stadium with this many people in it, and Cabrera looked at me like he was signaling he was going to test me out,” Escobar said through translator Jackson Miranda. “So of course he hit it right to me. So I was initially nervous about it but I knew what was coming.”
Then came Escobar’s first hit, an infield single against Justin Verlander that chased the Cy Young Award favorite from the game. And there was Cabrera again, tracking down the game ball for Escobar that Tigers manager Jim Leyland was holding when he pulled Verlander from the game.
As it turned out, Cabrera wasn’t simply going out of way to help a young kid in his first game. The two know each other since they both hail from the same town in Venezuela.
“I talked to him at first base, and Miguel asked me if I was nervous, and I said yes,” Escobar said. “Miguel said don’t worry about it, it’s natural.”
Escobar then turned to his locker as if he was going to grab the ball to show it off. Instead, he retrieved a Detroit newspaper that had a large photo of Verlander in an angry pose. Behind him was Escobar, who had just beaten Verlander to the bag for his first hit.
“Definitely very nervous at first, Verlander’s a great pitcher,” Escobar said. “So I was nervous, but I listened to what Omar (Vizquel) was telling me before the game, just to relax and concentrate and pretty much take all the noise in the stands out of my head and just concentrate on the pitch.”