MINNEAPOLIS — Kent Hrbek already has his No. 14 retired by the Minnesota Twins. He already has a bar and restaurant named after him at Target Field, the Twins’ two-year-old ballpark.
But this season, the Bloomington, Minn., native and former first baseman will be honored by his hometown team in one more fashion: with a bronze statue.
The Twins announced late last month that they’ll unveil a statue of Hrbek during the 2012 season. It will honor the man who played his entire 14-year career with Minnesota, helping the Twins win World Series titles in 1987 and 1991.
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“It’s humbling,” Hrbek said. “You’re lucky enough to play here and play in your hometown and win a couple championships and they retire your number. I didn’t know how much farther they could go.
“It’s like waking up from a dream and they tell you they’re going to make a statue of you, which is going to be on the earth for a hell of a lot longer than I’ll be.”
The Twins have unveiled a number of statues during Target Field’s first two seasons. Hrbek’s will be placed outside of Gate 14, which is also the location of the bar and grill named after him.
“We felt frankly that Kent was very deserving of (a statue) in relation to his great career and his many contributions to the franchise on and off the field,” said Twins president Dave St. Peter. “In some ways, he’s kind of the guy who lived the boyhood dream of starring for his hometown team. We thought it would be a great tribute to Kent and a great way to celebrate his legacy.”
Hrbek’s No. 14 is one of six numbers currently retired by the Twins. It hangs next to the likes of Harmon Killebrew’s No. 3, Tony Oliva’s No. 6, Bert Blyleven’s No. 28, Rod Carew’s No. 29 and Kirby Puckett’s No. 34. One more number, former manager Tom Kelly’s No. 10, will be added to that list this year.
Hrbek finished his Twins career with 293 home runs, 1,086 RBIs and 1,749 hits in 14 seasons. He hit a career-high 34 homers in 1987, the same year the Twins won their first World Series. During that World Series, Hrbek hit a grand slam in Game 6 to propel Minnesota to an 11-5 win over St. Louis. The Twins went on to win Game 7 by a 4-2 final, with Hrbek catching the final out at first base.
Four years later, Hrbek and the Twins had their second World Series title, defeating the Atlanta Braves in a memorable seven-game series. Hrbek homered in Game 1, a 5-2 Twins victory. He also had a memorable play at first base involving Atlanta’s Ron Gant during Game 2. The two players were tangled at the base, with Hrbek tagging Gant out. Some claim Hrbek pulled Gant off the bag, but Hrbek insists — even 20 years later — that Gant fell off the base.
Many have wondered what the pose of Hrbek’s statue will be. How about the play with Gant at first?
“No, that was not an option,” Hrbek laughed.
While St. Peter said the details are being finalized on which pose Hrbek will be in for his statue, Hrbek has one option in mind.
“My most memorable moment and my most exciting play of my career was when I caught the last out of the World Series (in 1987),” Hrbek said. “I’m jumping off of first base with the ball in my glove and starting the celebration.”
Bill Mack, the same Minneapolis-based artist who created the others around Target Field, will make Hrbek’s bronze statue. The current statues include Killebrew, Puckett, Oliva, Carew, former owner Calvin Griffith and late owner Carl Pohlad, along with his wife Eloise.
Hrbek was informed late last year that he would be next.
“I think it was the idea of making sure the price of bronze wasn’t going off the charts first, because they were going to use a little more bronze on me than they would somebody else,” joked Hrbek, who was listed at 6-foot-4 and nearly 250 pounds during his playing days.
No date has been set for the unveiling of Hrbek’s statue, but St. Peter said it will be early in the 2012 season.
“I’d rather have them do it a week into the season or two weeks, whatever we agree upon, I guess,” Hrbek said. “They were talking about doing it opening day, but I’d rather keep opening day reserved for the team. To me, opening day was always one of the most exciting days of the year.”