Minnesota Made: Kent Hrbek
Image courtesy of Courtesy of David Youngs from Tales From The Minnesota Twins Dugout, Kent HrbekKids across the state of Minnesota grew up in the 60’s and 70’s idolizing the power of Harmon Killebrew, cherishing the hitting of Tony Oliva, and would spend hours at the park imitating the swing of Rod Carew.
Of all those kids, a boy from Bloomington would be the only one to cement his name amongst ones like Oliva, Carew, and Killebrew as one of the greats in Twins history.
Kent Hrbek never envisioned himself playing for the Minnesota Twins while growing up in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. Just like any other kid he would spend his days playing pickup baseball with friends and watching the Twins when they were on TV.
“Back then you couldn’t really watch any other teams on TV besides maybe the Braves on TBS or maybe the Yankees, but that was it,” Hrbek said.
And while fans can find a way to watch every game in today’s world, things were a bit different back in the 60’s.
“Even the Twins only played 25 games or so per year on TV so you didn’t really get to see them much unless you went to the ballpark,” Hrbek recalled. “We went to the ballpark a lot when we were kids.”
That ballpark, Met Stadium, was just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Hrbek’s childhood home, and just miles from Kennedy High School. It was during his time at Bloomington Kennedy that Kent realized that baseball might be a path worth exploring after scouts started observing the young standout.
“My junior year I realized that I might have a shot and a path through baseball,” Hrbek recalled. “I just stuck with it, didn’t really do anything extra special."
Things would become special for ‘Herbie” after his hometown Twins drafted him in 1978. After powering through the Twins minor league system for a few seasons, Hrbek and other young talent got their chance at the big leagues in 1981.
“I was playing A-ball out in California and they gave a bunch of us guys a shot early because the parent club was struggling,” Hrbek recalled. “If the parent team was doing well I’m sure we never would’ve had a shot.”
That tail end of the ‘81 season was a “full circle” experience for Hrbek, getting to play at the ballpark where he grew up watching his hometown team.
“That was pretty cool,” Hrbek said.
Image Courtesy of Hajee, Flickr
Hrbek spent fourteen seasons in the Major Leagues, racking up a career .282 AVG with 293 HR and 1,086 RBI; all in a Minnesota Twins uniform, something that Kent is proud of.
“When I was a free agent there were a few teams looking at me, but I decided that I wanted to stay here,” Hrbek said. “I’m from here, my family was here.”
And while Hrbek could have gone elsewhere the was one factor that made staying in Minnesota a no brainer. His mother.
“In my entire career she had only missed two or three ball games at that point in my 14 years,” Hrbek said. “She was my biggest fan and I figured that if I moved away mom wouldn’t be able to watch too many games in person anymore.”
Hrbek credits another love of his to sticking around the Land of 10,000 Lakes; a deep passion for the outdoors, hunting, and fishing.
“I got to do some great hunting and fishing trips, still doing them today, and that’s one of the reasons I stuck around here,” Hrbek said.
“Just a Kid Going to the Ballpark”
There are few athletes who have done more for the state of Minnesota than Hrbek has. In addition to playing a key role in bringing the state it’s first two World Series, Hrbek remains a strong supporter of the Twins and the greater community. When he looks back at his time with the Twins Hrbek likes to think that he was just a kid getting to play the game he loved.
“I’d go to the ballpark and say ‘Hey mom, I'm going to the ballpark to play a game’ just like I did when I was eight years old living at home,” Hrbek said. “I tried to keep that perspective of ‘I’m just going out to play ball.’”
Image Courtesy of Metro Transit, Flickr
Over two decades removed from his playing career, Hrbek is no stranger to the Minnesota baseball community. He loves pulling up a barstool at ‘Hrbek’s’ at Target Field to enjoy a burger and beer with friends and fans. It’s those conversations that leave him feeling fulfilled.
“I seem to bump into people everyday who tell me what they were doing, where they were when we won the World Series," Hrbek said. “It’s fun to talk about it and be able to put smiles on people’s faces, that’s what I get out of it the most.”
Today marks the 33rd anniversary of the Twins historic victory over the St. Louis Cardinals to win their first title in Minnesota. For Hrbek, the memories of not just victory, but the relationships that he’s built in this state through baseball, couldn’t be any sweeter.
“I pinch myself everyday because I grew up here, got to play here,” Hrbek said. “It’s given me a lot of opportunities and I thank the Twins a million times over for giving me the opportunity.”
MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
— Latest Twins coverage from our writers
— Recent Twins discussion in our forums
— Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
- Monkeypaws, dbminn, nclahammer and 1 other like this