He's 5'9", married and soft-spoken, so with Derek Jeter in the mix don't expect the Angels' Orlando Cabrera to be voted Most Glamorous Shortstop in the ALDS. As a player, though, he shines. He hit .301 this year, knocked in 86 runs and stole 20 bases. And that glove? It might be golden: His .983 fielding percentage is best among AL shortstops. Now, the native of Cartagena, Colombia, is after his second World Series ring.
On briefly quitting baseball after a run of failed tryouts
I finished high school young, at 16 [in 1991]. My mom, Josefina, is a schoolteacher, and she wanted me to go on to school. I said, "Just give me one year to see if someone signs me." In that year [then Rangers scout] Omar Minaya saw me, so did the Dodgers, the Yankees, everybody. They all said, "No you're too short. I don't think you're going to hit." So I went to school [the University of Magdalena in Colombia]. I spent a year there studying to be a fishing engineer, and I played basketball.
How his late father, Jolbert, got a job as a Marlins scout
The Marlins called [during the year of tryouts] and said, "We want to see your son." So he took me to Venezuela. My dad had been a manager in Colombia, and when we went, instead of signing me, they signed him as a scout. I was like, What? Then he signed [current Braves shortstop] Edgar Renteria six months later.
How a little lie helped
Every time scouts came to Colombia they were looking for another Renteria. He's 6'1". The scout from the Expos was a friend of my dad's, and they lied about my height, saying, "Oh, he's 6'1", he grew." I was studying for a math exam when the Expos called and signed me by phone—then they sent a contract for $7,000. I had to fly to the Dominican Republic where the Expos had a guy waiting. He says, "Where's this Cabrera?" I'm like, "I'm Orlando Cabrera." He's like, "You're not Orlando Cabrera. They tell me he's a big guy." He didn't even want to take me. I had to beg him.
On replacing Nomar Garciaparra in Boston midway through 2004
I never heard [fans] mention Garciaparra. We were winning, and if your team is winning, fans don't care about anything else. I told my wife, Katie, who's from Boston, "They forgot about that guy? He was like a god for seven, eight years." When you win, that's it.
On the Red Sox rallying to beat the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS
Down three games and coming into the clubhouse that day, seeing everybody playing cards, messing around. I was like, Wow! We're going to win. We had the maturity to keep it cool in the clubhouse.
How the 2004 Red Sox compare with the '07 Angels
We're different. I can tell the guys who have been raised from the minors to the big leagues with the Angels. They have a mentality of pure concentration. I'm more of any easygoing guy. That's what I learned in '04—that you don't need to concentrate for five hours before the game to know what you've got to do. [Homegrown third baseman] Chone Figgins is looser now. That kid didn't even talk before games, and now I've got him joking around in the dugout.
PHOTOGRAPH BY BLAKE LITTLE
DAMIAN STROHMEYER (CABRERA PLAYING)