The camera phones were raised high and the anticipation was buzzing through the stadium.
When it finally happened, nearly 40,000 fans in Detroit cheered, got goosebumps, and even cried tears of joy that they got to be part of baseball history on Saturday.
Those in attendance basked in the glow and moment of Detroit Tigers’ slugger Miguel Cabrera collecting his 3,000th hit -- and for good reason.
There isn’t a sport in which old records and milestones are more hallowed than in baseball, and going forward, seeing a player reach 3,000 hits is an achievement that fans might not see for long, long time.
Here are five reasons why that is.
1. It’s REALLY hard to do.
In order for a player in the big leagues to get to 3,000 hits, he has to average 200 hits a season for 15 years, or 150 hits a year for 20 seasons.
To put it in perspective, last year’s league leader in hits, Trea Turner of the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers, had 195 hits.
In 2019, only two players eclipsed the 200-hit mark, Whit Merrifield of the Kansas City Royals and Rafael Devers of the Boston Red Sox.
In 2018, Merrifield led the majors in hits with 192.
2. No current player is that close.
The active player closest to 3,000 hits is New York Mets infielder Robinson Cano, who has 2,631. But he is 39 years old, was suspended for all of the 2021 season after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, and seems to be at the end of his career.
Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals and Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds are the only other active players above 2,000 hits (Molina is at 2,116; Votto at 2,035), but they are 39 and 38, respectively.
Looking at players in the prime of their careers, 32-year-old Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros and 32-year-old Freddie Freeman of the Los Angeles Dodgers are in the 1,700s in hits, and will have to be incredibly productive until their late 30s in order to flirt with 3,000 hits.
Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels is considered by many as the game’s best all-around player, but at age 30, he hasn’t even reached 1,500 career hits yet. The same can be said for 29-year old Manny Machado of the San Diego Padres.
Maybe the best hope is three of the game’s brightest young stars, the 25-year-old Devers, 23-year-old Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals and 23-year-old Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Devers has more than 600 hits already in his career, Soto just reached the 500-hit mark, while Guerrero had 188 hits last year and is already approaching 400 career hits.
3. More diverse pitching.
The game has certainly changed in that more teams are relying on relief pitchers instead of starters.
Instead of good hitters feasting on tiring pitchers or pitchers they can get used to after a couple of at-bats, they now have to face different, fresh and hard-throwing relievers throughout a game.
4. An increased emphasis on home runs, walks.
In this age of increased analytics, more value is placed on hitting home runs or getting on base through walks — which also serves the purpose of tiring out the opposing hurler by making them throw more pitches — instead of getting singles or trying to put the ball in play.
Because of that, it can be a feast-or-famine approach for many hitters who swing for the fences, but risk more strikeouts.
5. Defensive shifts.
Even though Major League Baseball will likely ban these starting next year, it has already cost a lot of top batters plenty of hits in recent years -- enough to where it might make ever getting to 3,000 hits unattainable.