NEW YORK -- The telenovela is an institution in Latin America, and "Cosita Rica" was always Miguel Cabrera's favorite. It lasted 270 episodes on TV from 2003-04 back home in Venezuela before going into reruns. Main characters Paula and Diego fall in love, Diego promises Paula he will cancel his engagement to Vicky, they agree to meet in New York and start a new life and then comes all the dripping drama.
That's a good telenovela for you, and that was the basis for "La Cueva del Fanático" -- Cabrera's acting debut. It was just posted on Thursday as the newest MLB Fan Cave video, a result of the visit by the Tigers' third baseman last Friday, along with teammate Collin Balester. They spent a couple of hours shooting the scenes in a 2:20 comedy clip that Cabrera's fans in the U.S. and in Venezuela, not to mention newly spoofed Tigers manager Jim Leyland, will enjoy.
"It was a lot of fun working with him," said Todd Pellegrino, who directed the video for P3 Entertainment. "For us, the surprising part was that he was really good. He did not need to be coached or really told what to do. He got the bit, he had his lines down. I tell you, he was pretty much a first-take actor.
"In doing research on him, we had seen that he did like a telenovela in Venezuela. It's one of the things he looks forward to when he goes home in the offseason. So that was the origin of the bit in the first place that we thought would be funny. Of course, if you're going to do it that way, you've got to do it the right way and do it all in Spanish, so he was definitely very happy to be able to do all of his lines in Spanish. It totally makes the whole piece."
When briefed on his role that day, Cabrera lit up and said: "This is in Spanish? Good!" Then he donned an eye patch and accepted his new character name, "Miggy Poco." He did his first scene from inside the Fan Cave elevator, riding it to the basement as a long-lost love who surprises the female lead -- Elena, played by actress Irene Sofia Lucio.
"He was a total pro," Lucio said of Cabrera. "I was a little starstruck. It was generally a really fun experience, just to pretend to be doing a telenuovo in his world, so it was a really wonderful time. ... I'm excited about my family seeing this. They're big fans."
Pellegrino said the intent was to make a trailer that would tease a future episode.
"Like a good telenovela, there are hints of many things to come," he said. "There's drama, there's betrayal, there's love, there's love lost. And I think what we did is like any trailer that's going to show an upcoming season, we kind of give you little hints of many different things, never really showing it all. It basically encompasses what you would expect for that genre of programming."
For Cabrera, the actual taping and the break during the Yankees series to visit the Fan Cave was a welcome respite.
"That's awesome, because back home, all the people watch telenovelas, so it's going to be great," Cabrera said. "All the people back in Latin America are going to be excited."
"He's good. I think he could be an actor," Balester said, as Cabrera cracked up beside him. "This is the start of his acting career once baseball is done. He's just a natural. This is going to get the Fan Cave huge in Latin America, and Miguel Cabrera was a big part of it."
Pellegrino said the goal of most of these Fan Cave videos is to make it fun for the participating players, while giving their fans something to share and non-fans another reason to "come to baseball."
"With Miguel, it was really not at all about baseball, which I think is partly why he was partly enthused about the whole thing," Pellegrino said. "First of all, it was something from home, felt like home. And I think he's used to answering the same questions day after day about baseball, but this had nothing to do with baseball. I think a lot of the players like that when they come down to the Fan Cave, that they get to do something a little bit outside of their daily routine and they have fun with it."