Cabrera brings energy, humor to Reds
Utility man enjoying young players' emergence
CINCINNATI -- Jolbert Cabrera's finally somewhere he can be himself again.In a Reds clubhouse with an increasing number of fresh faces, veteran utility man Cabrera is emerging as a clubhouse leader, keeping the mood lighter than he was able to with his last baseball team, the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of Japan's Pacific League. Almost right away from his arrival in Spring Training, Cabrera became a walking punchline among his teammates. "He's just a clown, an energetic guy with a great sense of humor," said rookie outfielder Chris Dickerson, who played with Cabrera most of the season with Triple-A Louisville before they were called up -- Cabrera for the first time in June and Dickerson earlier in August. "I'm a big movie-line guy, and so is he. We would just repeat lines back and forth, and that's the kind of guy he is." For Dickerson and Cabrera, those lines usually come from "Chappelle's Show" or movies like "Wedding Crashers" or, appropriately enough, "Old School."
Born in Colombia, Cabrera has fond memories of his two seasons in Japan -- the most extreme stop on a baseball tour that has spanned five organizations at various levels after the Reds signed him last offseason.Cabrera's comic-relief role suits the always-smiling 35-year-old, and it allows him to be a different person and a different player than he was in Japan. "The Japanese way was just very different," he said. "You've got to be more quiet over there. Here there's more energy, and that's a big plus in the clubhouse. "You feel the way you act. If you're feeling low, that carries through to the young kids and the whole team." Although Cabrera began the season at Triple-A alongside current lineup fixtures like Dickerson and Jay Bruce -- young stars who figure to be the organization's face for years to come -- Cabrera's long-term future likely will look a bit different. That's one reason why Cabrera, signed through the end of the season, is soaking up his first season back in the Majors before heading to Mexico for winter ball. "I've been glad to be here and see them take the first steps of their big league careers," Cabrera said of Dickerson, Bruce and others. "A lot of these young guys you see here have been with me since the beginning of the season at Louisville. I got to know them, what kind of players they were. They are big talents. "I'm grateful to [Reds manager] Dusty [Baker] for the confidence he has put in me and what he has allowed me to do here." Baker has his own vision of Cabrera's long-term future. "He's a very smart ballplayer, and when the day comes, I think he would make an excellent coach or manager," Baker said. "He knows the game, and he gets along with everybody. He's sort of a common-denominator kind of person." Dickerson's got even bigger hopes for Cabrera. "He's just an awesome dude, and I am a big fan, a big fan of Jolbert Cabrera," Dickerson said. "If he ever runs for president of Colombia, I am going to vote for him." For now, Cabrera will take breaking out of his mini-slump of his last five games (including two pinch-hit appearances), in which he has gone hitless, dropping his average below .300 for the first time this year. He is now batting .276 (16-for-58) in limited use.
Stephen Ellsesser is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.