By: Will Burchfield
It was a week ago today that Royals catcher Salvador Perez had a game he’ll never forget with a bat he’ll never give back.
The game? A 6-4 win over the Red Sox in which Perez went 3-3 and socked a go-ahead grand slam, the first of his career, in the bottom of the eighth.
The bat? Miguel Cabrera’s.
“That day was unbelievable,” Perez said on Wednesday. “Three for three, grand slam — that was amazing.”
“I just picked the right bat,” he added with a grin.
You know the story by now.
When the Tigers were playing in Kansas City at the end of May, Royals backup catcher Drew Butera picked up a stray bat during batting practice. It belonged to Cabrera. Butera loved it – “It just felt good in my hands,” he said – so he asked if Miggy had one to spare.
Cabrera promptly sent two twigs Butera’s way, a Rawlings and a Sam Bat. They were too heavy for Butera to use in a game, weighing 32 ounces each, and the 6’4 Perez noticed.
“Drew only uses it in B.P. so I asked him, can you give that to me, because I like it, I’ll use it in the game. I like a heavy bat like Miggy does,” said Perez.
Butera left the Sam Bat in Perez’s locker the morning of their series finale versus the Red Sox. Perez used it for the first time that afternoon. It worked.
“I’m gonna call Miggy and (say): ‘Hey, you gotta send me some more bats, please,'” Perez told reporters afterward.
Said a rueful Cabrera upon hearing the news, “I give away all my good bats. When I see him, I’m going to say, ‘Give me my bat back.'”
The Royals arrived in Detroit on Tuesday for a three-game series. Perez, ever the jokester, quickly tracked down his countryman Cabrera — or maybe it was the other way around.
“He told me yesterday,” said Perez, “‘Hey, can I get the bat back?’ I’m like, ‘No!'”
Instead, Perez asked him for another.
“No!!” recalled Perez, smiling from ear to ear. “He’s just kidding, he might send some. He always does.”
Perez hasn’t used Cabrera’s bat since his big day versus the Red Sox. He doesn’t want to break it.
“I want to save it. I got the (home run) ball, I got the bat, maybe a picture or something to put in your house and remember for the rest of your life,” said Perez. “I think when we go home (to Venezuela) we’re gonna take a picture and he’s gonna sign it for me.”
Butera still has the other bat, the Rawlings model. It’s heavier than what he uses in a game so he swings it during batting practice as a challenge. Asked if he’s noticed the ball jumping any farther off Cabrera’s club, Butera chuckled.
“I’m not strong enough to know that,” he said.
Still, it was Butera who told the Kansas City Star, “Some guys just have magic sticks.” It’s as if their powers permeate the wood, their skills transferable by contact. Simply by touching the handle, these virtuosos turn bats into wands.
“It’s an old mystery or an old tale,” said Butera. “It’s probably more the Indian than the arrow.”
The Indian, in this case, is one of a kind. Butera sought him out before Tuesday’s game.
“I didn’t get a chance to thank him in person so I just went over and thanked him again,” said Butera, who was flattered by Miggy’s gesture in Kansas City. “It just shows his character. He’s a great guy, great individual and he’s not afraid to share his knowledge or his love for the game.”
Perez, who picked up two RBI on Tuesday night, smiled and nodded when asked if he’s continued to hit well since retiring Miggy’s bat.
“And if I don’t hit good I’ll take it back,” he said, before rocking up and down in his clubhouse chair and roaring in delight.