MINNEAPOLIS Arms extended, feet off the ground and a smile on his face. That's how Kent Hrbek will forever be remembered the bronze version of him, at least.
The Minnesota Twins unveiled Hrbek's statue before Saturday's game against the Texas Rangers. It is located outside of Gate 14, which also bears Hrbek's number. As Hrbek, a Bloomington, Minn., native, said earlier this year when plans for the statue were announced, it's a tribute that will stand the test of time and be around for Twins fans to see long after Hrbek is gone."This is a great day, and I want to thank my family, my friends, the Pohlad family and everybody involved that wears a Twins uniform, every fan out there that has a Twins had and Twins jersey on," Hrbek said. "I don't know what else I can thank them for, because they've pretty much done everything for Kent Hrbek and Kent Hrbek appreciates everything."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 after a ground ball hit to third.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.While it would have made for an entertaining statue, the play at first base with Gant was not the pose used by local artist Bill Mack for the statue. The actual pose, which wasn't revealed until Saturday's unveiling, replicates Hrbek jumping in the air in celebration after catching the final out of the 1987 World Series, the first of two championships he won during his time with the Twins."We were going to have a (bet) to see which pigeon pooped on it first," Hrbek joked. "That's why I put the arms up so they'd have some place to sit."Joining Hrbek at the unveiling were several of his former Twins teammates, including Tim Laudner, Dan Gladden, Al Newman and John Castino. Current Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire and Hrbek's former manager, Tom Kelly, were also there.
"It's been an honor to know him and his family and to have the ability to write his name down on a lineup card just about every day," Kelly told the crowd gathered to witness the unveiling. "Thank you Kent for everything. This is a great memory for all of us here today."Current Twins Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins both grew up in Minnesota and watched Hrbek in his prime. Perkins, a Stillwater, Minn., native, had the chance to meet Hrbek during his rookie year in 2007 at Hrbek's annual fishing tournament."He was thanking me for coming out, and I told him, I said, You were my favorite player growing up. You don't have to thank me,'" Perkins said. "There's a lot of numbers retired, but to have a statue of you outside of a stadium, and he's from Bloomington, all those things, it's pretty neat for him being a local guy. A statue, that's a whole (different) level."As a left-hander, the St. Paul native Mauer idolized Hrbek, who was also left-handed."In the back yard, I was Kent Hrbek and my brothers were Kirby Puckett," Mauer said. "It's nice to see him get recognized for what he did here. He just played the game hard. He was a good all-around player."Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.