MLB Star Miguel Cabrera’s Face Directly Struck By Baseball, Eyes Spared By Oakley Performance Eyewear
Miguel Cabrera is on the field…today…still playing baseball for a living. And he thanks exactly two things for that.
Oakley and God.
It was a split second moment, in mid-March, when the Detroit Tigers Superstar Third Baseman thought that his career was in danger of being over. For good.
“I think the only reason I’m able to talk to talk you right now, is my Oakley glasses,” Miguel says on a Preseason Sunday at the end of March, a mere two days after returning to play after spending a week recovering from injuries stemming from a bad-hop ground ball and hard shot – taken straight to the face. “I’d probably be in the hospital right now. I thank God that the Oakleys protected me that week. That bad hop on the ball that hit me: I would have probably lost my eyes.”
Rewind to March 20 in Lakeland, Fla. during a Spring Training match between the Tigers and the Philadelphia Phillies. All was standard for a pro outing. Philadelphia Right Fielder Hunter Pence solidly smacked a ground ball toward the Oakley’s star.
“Miguel was in position to make the play, but the ball just took a wicked hop,” says Kevin Rand, head athletic trainer for the Detroit Tigers. “It was by far the nastiest hop I’ve seen during my 20 years in the Big Leagues, no question about it.”
Rand was present, and fully observing, at the very second when the ball violently struck Miguel in the face – causing a deep laceration and other visible injuries.
“When I came out to see him, I knew he’d been caught by the ball bad,” Rand continues. “What didn’t become apparent was the glasses had cut him – a laceration. Then when we looked it a lot closer, upon evaluation, the laceration would require some stitches. But when you looked at the glasses closely, you could see the seams of the ball etched right into the lenses, where the impact had taken place.”
It then dawned on the veteran trainer that one piece of safety equipment had made all the difference in saving one of the most elite players in the World.
“If he didn’t have the glasses on, the ball likely would have shattered his eye socket. He would have been in danger of permanent vision issues, if not losing his eye completely. It would have hit him that solidly. There would have been permanent damage.”
Dr. Michael Workings, the head physician at Detroit’s franchise, concurred fully.
“You couldn’t even imagine what could have happened,” Workings adds. “I saw pictures of what it did to the eyewear, and I can imagine what would have happened to the bottom of the eye socket if it had taken that type of impact directly. The eyewear hadn’t come apart at all. It just took all the impact.”
More than 30 years of Oakley research and design – resulting in more than 600 technology patents in unrivaled optics, materials and incredible impact protection capabilities – went to work, preventing irreversible damage to the Venezuelan star.
But, like many baseball players that rely on Oakley performance eyewear on the field – from groms in the Little Leagues to the most elite pros on the Planet – Miguel didn’t always think of his O shades as a piece of true protective equipment. Until the moment he was struck, that is.
“I was surprised, kind of in shock. I thought my eyesight was going to be lost. But saw the doctor, and he said everything was fine with my eyes and that the glasses had protected me. Thank God I’m okay!”
Sporting Oakley eyewear – on and off – since 2003, when he was called up from the Minor Leagues to contribute to the Florida Marlins’ glorious World Series victory over the New York Yankees, the 28-year-old had always been fond of his O eyewear. And indeed, trainers had mentioned a thing or two about the importance of wearing Oakley on the field over the years.
“They told me a little about it,” Miguel continues. “I had heard that Oakley did a lot of testing on the glasses with metal spikes and metal balls – and how if something like a baseball were to hit them, they wouldn’t break.”
They were correct.
Special construction of the eyewear allows all Oakleys to withstand company standard impact tests, which include directly firing a quarter-inch steel ball traveling at 102 mph at a pair of glasses, followed by dropping a heavy metal spike on eyewear from over four feet above. A standard that applies to every set of eyewear that is available to the public.
The result: Miguel Cabrera was cleared to play baseball a mere week after such a violent incident. Despite a small fracture in his face from the blow.
“Without the glasses, it would’ve all been over. My career would have been over. I think my right eye wouldn’t be able to see. I knew that it would all be over. I was out for one week, that was it. Then I was back out there playing.”
Jump to March 30, and Miguel continued his prolific play, going 2 for 3 with RBIs in his first game back against the Baltimore Orioles…for a 6-4 victory. This time, in a larger pair of Oakley Radar eyewear (XL version).
“I contacted (Oakley Baseball Manager) Garry (Gant) about having larger glasses for Miguel – to cover and protect the area where he suffered a non-displaced fracture of the orbit floor,” Rand adds. “But everything looks fine, visually. There are no issues, his periphery has no issues – and he was cleared to play.”
With major impact incidents like Miguel’s, it’s safe to say that every franchise and every pro in the Majors are taking a second look at the regular use of Oakley performance eyewear on the field.
And for Miguel himself, there’s simply no other option for himself – and baseball players on all levels that put their own safety at the top of their lists.
“Young players should use Oakley glasses when they’re playing,” Miguel says. “Everyone thinks that you wear glasses to be cool. But that’s not it at all. You use them to protect your eyes from everything: from the ball, to the sun to anything out there. Every time I meet young players from now on, I’m going to recommend that they use Oakley glasses, because they’re going to literally save your eyes.”
Oh, but there’s more to the story.
Although Miguel had been on the Oakley Baseball Program since 2003, the lure of high paying sponsorships from other companies forced him to switch glasses for some time. Until just a few days before his incident, that is.
“Miguel stopped wearing his Oakleys for a couple years because of some contracts that were offered to him through his agents,” says Garry Gant, Oakley’s baseball manager. “Then throughout these last two years, he kept coming up to me saying: ‘Garry, what do you think about me wearing Oakleys?’ And I said, ‘I’d love to, but you took yourself off the program.’”
“Then this year during Spring Training, I go into Detroit’s locker room, I walk by, and Miguel pulls me to the side and says: ‘what do I need to do to wear Oakleys?’ And I said: ‘I’m not trying to exclude you, but if you want to talk again, you have to wear the eyewear on the field, use it and benefit from it.’”
It became apparent that Miguel had sorely missed his Oakleys.
“That was the first day I got back to supplying him with O eyewear. Three days later, he gets busted in the eye.”
Call it luck. Call it fate. Call it whatever you’d like. But it’s safe to say that Miguel Cabrera won’t be wearing anything else on his eyes for the rest of his career. Period.
Even his own trainers will admit that his whole ordeal might have raised awareness, for the entire baseball world, to the realities of today’s game…and its dangers.
“I think this incident opened a lot of players’ eyes, to be perfectly honest with you,” Rand concludes. “Because, one thing that was clear – the glasses were perfectly in tact. We know we would have had a much, much more serious injury situation if he didn’t have them on. I think a lot of the guys looked at that and said, well gosh, if that happened to me, I sure would like to have those in front of my face too.”