I recently had the chance to talk with Bloomington native Kent Hrbek about the upcoming Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which was Tuesday, July 15, at Target Field. Hrbek, former All-Star first baseman for the Minnesota Twins, said he has mixed feelings about the game.
He, naturally, was looking forward to seeing his “buddies” he played with at the special event. And he intended to help with some of the special events leading up to the game, like the Futures Game and Rookie game.
Of course, he’s proud to see that the special midseason event came to the local Target Field. He recalls when the All-Star game was last played in Minnesota in 1985, outfielder Tom Brunansky represented the Twins on the team.
The All-Star game means more to him since he was selected to play in it in 1982 in Montreal because the winner now has the home field advantage for the World Series.
All that said, his only appearance on the All-Star team was not that memorable. He recalls he pinch hit, swung at the first pitch and popped the ball up for an easy out. He did enjoy playing with such stars as Robin Yount, Eddie Murray, Rollie Fingers and Carl Yastrzemski.
He might have been selected for more All-Star games had he not openly protested the selection process that he claimed ignored Minnesota players he thought deserved to be All-Stars.
To this day he isn’t bothered about the All-Star snubs, because his 14-year career with the Minnesota Twins includes more significant honors – like playing on two World Series championship teams. In the 1987 World Series, few will forget when Hrbek hit a grand slam home run to win the sixth game against St. Louis, which sealed the series title for the Twins.
Since he retired from the game in 1994, his number 14 has been retired and he’s been selected to the Twins Hall of Fame along with Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva.
Hrbek continues to enjoy life in his hometown Bloomington. The first All-Star game was played at the old Metropolitan Stadium in 1965, in the shadows of where Kent was born in Bloomington.
He has lived his entire life in Bloomington, where he graduated from Kennedy High School in 1978. He began to play baseball at the age of 5 and played baseball in ninth grade, coached by Buster Radebach, who was a big influence in his life.
He married a Bloomington woman, Jeanie Burns, and their daughter, Heidi, was a figure skater at the Bloomington Ice Garden. She will graduate from college next year with a degree in art and photography. Kent and his family continue to live in Bloomington, a community he says he loves.
In memory of his dad, Ed, who died of ALS, Hrbek gives talks to increase awareness of the disease and he sponsors a fishing tournament and snowmobile ride for ALS research.
As for advice to future All-Stars, Hrbek says have fun and don’t be so serious in learning how to play the game – a game that enabled him to be an All-Star on the field and in his hometown.
Don Heinzman is a columnist for ECM Publishers.