Kansas City Royals rookie pitcher Eric Skoglund made his major league debut Tuesday night, and turned in a solid performance, limiting the high-power Detroit Tigers to just two hits and a walk in 6 1/3 scoreless innings. He went on to record his first major league victory when the Royals held on for a 1-0 win.

None of that is what this column is about.

In fact, very little of this column has to do with Eric Skoglund — or the Kansas City Royals.

Miguel Cabrera is a bona fide major league superstar. He has won a Triple Crown, leading the American League in batting, home runs and runs batted in, all in the 2012 season. He is a solid choice for the Baseball Hall of Fame one day.

What makes Cabrera stand out, however, is not numbers — it’s what he means to the game of baseball as a person.

In the top of the first inning Tuesday night, Cabrera stepped to the plate to face Skoglund.

One of the most intimidating players in the game today, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound slugger could have stared down the young rookie, carrying an “I’m a star” attitude to the plate. Instead, he did something even more memorable.

Cabrera looked in to the pitcher’s mound and he smiled, then he gave the young rookie a “thumbs-up” — a sort of “Welcome to the big leagues, Kid.”

That is what is missing from professional sports these days.

Just a day before, San Francisco Giants head-hunting pitcher Hunter Strickland was ejected for intentionally throwing at Washington Nationals batter Bryce Harper.

Harper isn’t exactly a poster boy for class acts, but he had a right to charge the mound.

Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista is so hated around the majors that he drew almost no interest from other teams when he was a free agent last winter. Bautista, like many in nearly all levels of baseball, is known for showing up the pitcher by standing at the plate admiring home runs before arrogantly flipping his bat in a mocking manner, often before the ball even leaves the park.

Meanwhile, perhaps the most boring NBA Finals in history were under way Thursday night between the two best teams that money could buy.

The NBA champion Golden State Warriors, losers of just five games all season, were so in need of a proven forward that they plucked Kevin Durant from the small-market Oklahoma City Thunder. And in Cleveland, Cavaliers superstar Lebron James whined until he had a say in which superstars the team should buy because his talent apparently wasn’t enough.

Over in the NFL, rules are being changed to allow more “celebrations” — also known as self-centered, “Look at me!” outtakes after scoring touchdowns. If I remember correctly, the greatest running backs in NFL history, Barry Sanders, Jamaal Charles, Jim Brown and others, handed the ball to the official as if they’ve been in the end zone before.

It’s refreshing to see pro athletes show respect for the game, for themselves, their family and the opposition. Way too many players play for the name on the back of the jersey rather than the name on the front.

Cabrera is an exceptional player who also is an exception to what is turning into a narcissistic circus among otherwise spoiled brats.

Sports editor Joey Sprinkle can be reached at jsprinkle@ctnewsonline.com.

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