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Giving back near and dear to Miggy's heart

Slugger, teammates take part in annual Keeping Kids in the Game event

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Giving back near and dear to Miggy's heart

DETROIT -- One day after fans voted Miguel Cabrera into the All-Star Game's starting nine for the second straight year, he was doing his part to welcome some younger fans to the park. At the same time, he was trying to give back.

The gathering of kids and families looking to meet him seemed endless as he signed autographs, posed for pictures and chatted with many of the approximately 200 patients and families from nearby Children's Hospital of Michigan and the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor. The families and kids were special guests being treated to dinner in the Brushfire Grill as the leadoff event to the Tigers' sixth annual Keeping Kids in the Game event.

There was a second half to the event as well, with Cabrera playing host to guests who paid tickets for an evening on the field with more than a dozen Tigers players and families. With the kids, though, Cabrera was in his element, making faces and sharing laughs.

"This is awesome," Cabrera said. "It's great to be a part of this. We go back when we were kids, try to give something back, like a smile. It's a special moment."

Cabrera wasn't the only one. Among the Tigers players and coaches who attended were Alex Avila, Phil Coke, Bryan Holaday, Torii Hunter, Don Kelly, Ian Kinsler, Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Matt Martin.

"I am very happy," Cabrera said of the turnout. "This is a very special night. We're a close team."

Verlander and Kate Upton stopped in to visit the kids, who were also treated to face painting, balloon artists and Ferris wheel rides before getting a chance to go onto the playing field.

"This means a lot," Verlander said, "this event that Miggy does, what he does in the community. Even on an off-day, to visit the kids means so much."

Cabrera took over the event soon after he arrived in Detroit, picking up where former teammates Brandon Inge and Carlos Guillen left off. The event not only allows him to connect with kids, it's the main fundraising event for the Detroit Tigers Foundation as well as a fundraiser for the Miguel Cabrera Foundation.

Cabrera and his wife worked with the Tigers to set up his foundation a few years ago to help give kids the opportunity to play ball in the Detroit area as well as Cabrera's native Venezuela and his offseason home in Miami.

Understandably, it's a cause close to his heart. Days after he signed his record-setting contract this spring, family members in his old Venezuelan hometown of Maracay took part in the unveiling of a renovated ballfield where he used to play as a kid.

Among the projects supported by Monday's event are children's and youth baseball programs facilitated by the two hospitals, giving kids in special situations a chance to have fun.

"I think that's what it's all about," Cabrera said, "try to give something back, give something to the community. We enjoy doing this."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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