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"Lou is not talking about mechanics when he goes out to the mound,"
~Chicago Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild

Sunday, March 05, 2006

My First Sports Hero

As I stated about a month ago, I've had difficulties finding things to write about now that neither the NFL or MLB is in season. I presume Graham feels the same way. Although with recent surgery for Kerry Wood, the Cubs televised exhibition game this afternoon, and and his complete obsession with March Madness, I expect his postings to return to normal frequency.

There was one story that I feel is worth mentioning. As a life-long Twins fan, I was extremely disheartened to hear the news of Kirby Puckett's stroke. I believe the earliest childhood memory I have is the '87 World Series between the Twins and the Cardinals. At that time I was not yet 6 years old, but still have vivid images of my sister and I sitting at the foot of my parents bed until the games finshed just before midnight. Back then sports seemed to be the only reasonable excuse for a 6 year old boy to be up past his bedtime on a school night and I suppose that remains true today.

The point is that I can say with complete honesty that Kirby Puckett truly was my first childhood hero. And while he's been out of the spotlight for many years now, I'm still reminded of the joy he brought me as a child everytime I look at the baseball I have autographed by him sitting atop my dresser. To me that's what sports is all about - bringing people together. I recently found a '87 Twins World Series shirt at a thrift shop for $7. I suppose this is where I should remind everyone of the old cliche, "One man's garbage is another man's gold". Back to the point of bringing people together though, I wore the shirt last time I was at my parent's house. My dad and I have very little in common and often struggle to find things to talk about, atleast between October and April that is. But on this particular February day, my father and I had an hour discussion about that series and the Twins in general. That's what sports can do for people. I have more than a handful of friends who likely would not be considered that without the presence of sports. Bonds like these are commonplace among men. They are directly tied to a shared love for a certain baseball team or an equivalent hatred for all things Yankee, Duke, and Notre Dame.

That's why this story matters. It's why Kirby Puckett matters. There are few players with both the physical talent and the charisma it takes to legitamitly become the "face of a franchise". These are the players whose name evokes the image of a certain team and vice-versa. Kirby Puckett is as much a Twin as Brett Favre is a Packer or Mickey Mantle is a Yankee.

Twins blogger Aaron Gleeman offers some insight as to how a stroke in the family can effect loved ones. I don't think it's a stretch to say that Kirby is a part of all Twins fans' family. So illness in the life of Kirby is an illness in the life of all Twins fans - including that of my father and I.

All of my thoughts and prayers go out to the Puckett family.

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