In the moment, Asdrubal Cabrera did not entirely comprehend what he had accomplished. The date was eight years ago to the day, May 12, 2008, and Cabrera had just completed an unassisted triple play -- one of baseball's rarest individual feats -- without much pomp or circumstance. As Cabrera left the field, unwitting, he threw the ball into the stands.
There have been 295 no-hitters in baseball history and 23 perfect games. Three hundred and nine times, a player has hit for the cycle. Sixteen players have hit four homers in a game; 70 more have collected a half-dozen hits. But over well more than a century of Major League Baseball, just 15 players have completed an unassisted triple play. Only one has turned the trick since Cabrera did so eight years ago Thursday.
In retrospect, the rarity is not lost on Cabrera. At the time, he had no idea.
"It happened so fast," Cabrera said. "The only thing that I remember is that I threw the ball to the fans."
• Rare feats: Unassisted triple plays
What actually went down is this: Stuck in a scoreless second game of a doubleheader against the Blue Jays, Indians pitcher Cliff Lee allowed consecutive singles to Kevin Mench and Marco Scutaro to open the fifth. Both runners went in motion as Lee delivered his second pitch to the next batter, Lyle Overbay, who hit a looping line drive toward second base. Because Cabrera was already headed in that direction to cover second base, snaring the ball was easy. Outs two and three were even simpler, Cabrera needing only to step on second base to double up Mench, then take a few steps forward to tag Scutaro for the triple play.
The only unassisted triple play since came Aug. 23, 2009, when second baseman Eric Bruntlett completed the feat in the ninth inning to help the Phillies top the Mets in New York.
As he ran off the field, Cabrera knew he had done something important, but he thought about it mostly in context of trying to win the game. In part because the celebration in his own dugout was so short-lived, with his team preparing to hit, he didn't realize just how special the moment was until a mob of media descended on him afterward.
"That was when I was thinking, 'Oh, I made a great play,'" Cabrera said, laughing.
These days, Cabrera takes pride mostly in the fact that he remains the only Venezuelan big leaguer to turn an unassisted triple play. It has been years since the now-Mets shortstop last watched video of it, though he does still wonder where the ball might be.
"Oh, yeah, absolutely," Cabrera said when asked if he wished he had it in his collection. "But there was nothing I could do. … For me, all that stuff's in the past."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.