Tuesday, March 07, 2006

We Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled Blog

I have to take a break from debating the merits of Harry Potter vs. My Fair Lady, West Side Story, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, et al., to comment on the shocking (at least shocking to me) death of Kirby Puckett.

For people who aren't Minnesota Twins fans, this may not seem like a big deal. And, in the grand scheme of things, it isn't. Compared to world hunger, poverty, the war in Iraq, etc., the loss of a former baseball player is merely a sad event. But, for me, Kirby was a big deal.

I was 12 years old when my family moved from Nebraska to Minnesota. Being 12 and awkward is hard enough, but doing it after moving away from most of my family and my best friend in the world was particularly hard on me. Even worse, we moved during the summer, so for about 3 months I didn't even have a new school to meet new friends. What I had to fill the void was Twins baseball.

Most likely because they were feeling guilty for uprooting me at this vulnerable age, my parents took me to loads of Twins games (at least a dozen... and probably more). Even when I wasn't going to a game that summer, I was watching them on TV. To top it all off, that was the summer of 1991, when the Twins went from worst (dead last the previous season) to First (winning the World Series in what is quite possibly the most exciting World Series ever).

My only truly happy memories from that miserable summer was going to the ballpark, waiting for Number 34 to come up to bat, and hearing (and usually shouting along) as the announcer screamed "Batting Third, KIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRRRRRRRRRBYYYYYYYYYY PUUUUUUUCKEEEET!!!!"

Like so many others, I was enchanted by Kirby's enthusiasm, his hustle, his love of the game, the exuberance he brought to each and every game he played, and the way every eye in the stadium was drawn to him.

Just about every Twins fan remembers Game 6 of the '91 Series, when Kirby almost single-handedly won the game for the Twins and forced a Game 7, which the Twins won to take the title. But for me, I will always remember Kirby for the magical way this squatty little guy would beat out a ground ball and how he could light up the entire Metrodome with his smile and a tip of his batting helmet.

Goodbye Kirby. You'll never knew how much you touched my life, but I'll never forget you.

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