Friday, January 7, 2011

2011 Hall of Fame Week: Killebrew and Me

It has been an exciting week here at North Dakota Twins Fan as I celebrated Hall-of-Fame week with daily posts on a variety of Hall-of-Fame topics.  On Monday I looked at some of the players that I felt were borderline for making the Hall.  On Tuesday I took a look at the "Steroid Era" sluggers.  For Wednesday I released the ballot that I voted on for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance Hall-of-Fame induction.  Thursday saw me reflecting on the election of former Twin, Bert Blyleven, and looking ahead to the crazy year he will have in 2011.

There has been another Hall-of-Fame Twins player that has been in the headlines over the last week.  Harmon Killebrew, who could be argued as the greatest Twins player, has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer.  This battle is going to be a struggle for the former slugger but with the team of doctors that he has he "anticipates a full recovery."

Killebrew, Morneau, and Kubel at
2006 Spring Training
I have been lucky enough to have multiple interactions with Killebrew over the course of my life.  I am too young to have seen Killebrew play but over the last half of a decade I have seen and heard from Killebrew in multiple settings.

The first time that I encountered Mr. Killebrew I was a young college student that was attending my first Twins Fest.  A good friend of mine, Dustin Dimmler, and I were excited to be able to collect as many autographs as we could at this gathering of Twins players.  We were surprised at how short the line was for a player of Killebrew's stature.  We were able to move through the line with incredible ease.

Killebrew getting interviewed
(I'm in the background)
The one story that I remember about that first encounter was the things that he was telling us about his pen.  He had a special pen that he brought with him to sign autographs.  Killebrew has always prided himself on having a very clear and easy to read signature.  There are stories from generations of Twins players that have changed their signature because of the advice of Killebrew.  Two Twins that come to mind in regards to that are Torii Hunter and Bert Blyleven.  

In 2006, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend Twins Spring Training in Ft. Myers, Florida.  Killebrew was also in attendance and on the field with his old #3 on.  It was great to get to Harmon on the field interacting with the players and coaches.  He would stand next to the batting cage and give advice to anyone that would hear it.  And who wouldn't want to take advice from one of the greatest sluggers in the history of the game?

"Definition of a True Twins Fan?"
Me cleaning off Killebrew's shoe
There have been other times that I have crossed paths with the Twins legend.  Other Twins Fest celebrations, the unveiling of his statue on Target Plaza, and another trip to Ft. Myers.  Each one of these encounters has left me with a sense of awe at how nice and genuine of a man he can be.  I still remember turning to my buddy and saying, "The guy standing in front of us (at the time) has more homeruns in the American League than anyone except Babe Ruth."

It has been sad to hear about the heath concerns that are now plaguing Killebrew's later years.  I am thankful for the few interactions that I have had with him over the years.  I look forward to even more interactions in the future.

Get well, Harmon.

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