Roberto Clemente’s bat ignites Oswaldo Cabrera’s power at the plate

Aaron Judge celebrates with Oswaldo Cabrera, who hit a home run in the Yankees vs. Pirates game on Sept. 16, 2023, at PNC Park.

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Yankees rookie Oswaldo Cabrera attributed his first league home run in over three months to the inspiration he gained from a visit to the Robert Clemente Museum in Pittsburgh.

The 24-year-old outfielder for the New York Yankees, along with his 25-year-old teammate Estevan Florial, visited the museum on Friday. During the visit, Oswaldo Cabrera had the opportunity to handle one of the weighty bats once wielded by the legendary Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, known for his outstanding career with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955 to 1972.

Oswaldo Cabrera mentioned that when he visited the bat store, the attendant suggested that if he used a particular bat, he might hit a home run the next day. He expressed his amazement and excitement about the home run he hit in the New York Yankees’ 6-3 win on Saturday night.

The amazing bat behind Oswaldo Cabrera’ power surge

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Images courtesy of The Clemente Museum

Upon Oswaldo Cabrera’s return to the dugout following his eighth-inning home run at PNC Park on Saturday night, Estevan Florial enthusiastically welcomed him.

“The bat! The bat!” Florial yelled.

“The bat?” Oswaldo Cabrera asked himself, then quickly realized. “Oh! The bat!”

A superstition unfolded as Oswaldo Cabrera’s home run, sealing a 6-3 victory and a series win against the Pirates, came after his visit to the Roberto Clemente Museum. During his museum visit, the player held a massive 40-ounce bat used by Clemente, who typically swung bats in the range of 36-38 ounces; today, bats are generally closer to 33 ounces.

There’s a belief that holding Clemente’s bat brings luck to a player the next day, often resulting in a home run. Oswaldo Cabrera mentioned that he was informed during his Clemente Museum tour on Friday that this might happen. Strangely enough, the prediction came true. Perhaps there was even more potent magic at play, as Oswaldo Cabrera held the bat on Roberto Clemente Day on Friday and then sent his home run soaring past the “21” symbol on the right-field grass and over the 21-foot Clemente Wall at PNC Park.

Too good to be true?

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Oswaldo Cabrera expressed his happiness and said he couldn’t put into words how he felt about hitting a home run.

When Oswaldo Cabrera came up to bat in the eighth inning, the Yankees‘ offense had already left its mark. In the first inning, the Yankees scored three runs, including a two-run single from Florial, who, like Oswaldo Cabrera, had visited the Clemente Museum. Stanton added to the tally with a mammoth 418-foot home run in the third inning, and Aaron Judge, a nominee for the Clemente Award, crossed the plate on a wild pitch in the sixth.

This home run marked Oswaldo Cabrera’s first since June 3. Since that date, he has been sent down to Triple-A and called up twice as he strives to secure a permanent spot in the Yankees’ lineup.

Oswaldo Cabrera mentioned that he had experienced some inconsistency at Triple-A and had been working diligently to regain his consistency.

All the effort he’s put in has yielded results. During his six-game hitting streak, Oswaldo Cabrera has boosted his batting average by 14 points. If he can maintain this level of offensive production and consistently contribute hits, he has the potential to become a well-rounded player for the Yankees.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone expressed his excitement about Oswaldo Cabrera’s current offensive performance, noting that it had been a week or 10 days of strong hitting. Boone also highlighted his defensive versatility as a valuable asset for the team.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad idea to allow Oswaldo Cabrera to make another visit to the Clemente Museum and grasp that bat once more before the series finale, harnessing the magic of “The Great One” to fuel his performance once again.

What really helped Oswaldo Cabrera

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Oswaldo Cabrera had been struggling at the plate for months, but he recently found his groove, going 3-for-4 with a walk and an RBI. Over his last five games, the switch-hitting infielder/outfielder has been batting .389, collecting seven hits in 18 at-bats.

The player revealed that he’s been working on refining his hitting mechanics throughout the year in pursuit of better results. However, what seemed to unlock his performance was a conversation he had with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre hitting coach Trevor Amicone during his third and final stint in Triple-A, which lasted from July 23 to August 2.

Oswaldo Cabrera mentioned that when he was sent down to Triple-A, he had conversations with his hitting coach. During these discussions, his hitting coach helped him shift his mindset, reminding him of his past successes as a good hitter.

A straightforward pep talk from hitting coach Trevor Amicone had a significant impact on Oswaldo Cabrera. He repeatedly reminded himself of his capabilities as a good hitter, despite his struggles earlier in the season. This newfound confidence has played a crucial role in his recent hot streak. As of Friday, his batting average had improved from .207 just a week ago to .220. In 101 games, which included 68 starts across five different positions, he had recorded four home runs, 27 RBI, and eight stolen bases.

Manager Aaron Boone was delighted with Cabrera’s progress. He had been impressed when Cabrera made his debut in August last season and performed well, even in the playoffs. Now, Cabrera is displaying a return to his rookie-year form.

Boone expressed his excitement about Cabrera’s recent performance at the plate. He noted that throughout the season, Cabrera had struggled with fouling off pitches, particularly good fastballs. However, in the last several days, Boone observed that Cabrera had been consistently making solid contact with fastballs and hitting line drives to various parts of the field.

The Yankees appreciate the enthusiasm he brings through his extroverted nature and his assertive approach both in the field and on the basepaths.

Aaron Judge acknowledged that Oswaldo Cabrera had faced various challenges throughout the season, including being sent down to the minors and not getting consistent playing time. However, Judge praised Cabrera’s recent performance, noting that he had put together consistent and impressive at-bats over the past couple of days. Judge emphasized Oswaldo Cabrera’s value to the team, describing him as a versatile switch-hitter who could play multiple positions, including shortstop and the outfield, and highlighted his importance to the Yankees in the coming years.

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