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"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Orlando Cabrera(notes) gave the Cleveland Indians a worthy reason to miss a couple of games this week, even though the team has been short a few other key players because of injuries.

Cabrera headed home Thursday, to South Carolina, to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. He missed the Indians game that day against the White Sox, and will miss another game on Friday as well. The team excused him.

Cabrera has been preparing for this event, right up to the final moment. A Stew source noticed Cabrera reciting the Pledge of Allegiance on Wednesday inside the visitor's clubhouse at U.S. Cellular Field. And he apparently has "got it down." How awesome is that?

A native of Colombia, Cabrera came to North America after signing with the Montreal Expos in 1994. Now 36 years old, Cabrera has been a major leaguer for 15 seasons and finds himself in first place — again — with the Indians. Six of Cabrera's past seven clubs have made the playoffs. What happens today for him represents a different kind of victory.

The bureaucratic process of naturalization takes months, but becoming a citizen requires years of preparation. Originally from the Dominican Republic, Indians manager Manny Acta knows what Cabrera has been going through. Acta became a U.S. citizen in 1999.

Via MLB.com:

"I know that he's very happy and excited," Acta said on Thursday. "I've gone through it. It is a great moment. We all appreciate the type of life that you can live here with all the freedom and all the security we have here. It's going to be a great moment for him."

I remember covering the White Sox in 2006 when manager Ozzie Guillen — a native of Venezuela — became a U.S. citizen. Guillen seemed humbled by the honor, sense of accomplishment and pride associated with naturalization. He reportedly cried at the ceremony.

"This is a country that gives you so many opportunities to be what you want to be," Guillen said. "There are so many reasons you want to become a citizen, but if I explained them all, one by one, we would be here all day."

Guillen, Cabrera and persons like them are not only deserving, but also lucky. Ozzie remains loyal to his birth country — and enjoys great status there — but also gets to enjoy the benefits, protections and responsibilities of being a U.S. citizen. The same will go for O-Cab.

And we're collectively better off for having these immigrants among us.

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