|photo credit: BaseballBacks via photopin cc|
Four dollars and a four-block walk. That’s all it took for me to go a Minnesota Twins baseball game growing up. I’d buy a general admission ticket to the upper deck and then sneak down to the lower deck. Truly there was one main reason I wanted to go watch baseball in the unnatural Teflon bubble of Minneapolis’ Metrodome: Kirby Puckett, the teddy bear-looking (and shaped), rifle-armed center fielder who patrolled the outfield Astroturf for the Twins.
Kirby was all effort and smiles. For a short, chubby kid living in the shadow of the stadium there wasn’t another choice—Kirby Puckett was the perfect baseball hero. He had personality, skill, hustle, and he won. I imitated his high leg-kick swing playing Whiffle ball in the backyard and chugged my stumpy legs to first base on the dirt field at Elliot Park just like he did. Kirby wasn’t a mere ballplayer; he was an icon. He was an entire chapter of my childhood.
Sitting at my desk at work, a year out of college, I saw the news of Kirby’s death from a hemorrhagic stroke at his home in Arizona, and I cried. I had to go to the men’s room to pull myself together so I could keep working. A part of my childhood had died. He was a week shy of 46. I was three weeks shy of 23. That was seven years ago, last Wednesday.