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Even though his girth might not make him look like a superstar athelete, Kent Hrbek was instrumental to the Minnesota Twins Major League Baseball team in the late 80's and early 90's. Hrbek, along with Gary Gaetti, Kirby Puckett and Frank Viola helped jumpstart a lagging franchise, and became the nucleus of a ballclub that would bring the state of Minnesota its first major sports championship.

The Beginning of a Career:

Born on May 21, 1960 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Kent Alan Hrbek went straight from Bloomington Kennedy High School to Major League Baseball. He was selected in the 17th round of the 1978 amateur draft by the Minnesota Twins. Hrbek spent three years in Minnesota's farm system, before being called up to the majors in 1981. Kent's Major League Debut occurred on August 21st. In the game, Kent hit a home run in extra innings to give the Twins a late-season upset win over the New York Yankees. Hrbek helped the Twins win that game, but the Twins would not win many more. In a season shortened by strike, the Twins finished a dissappointing 41-68.

Things would soon change for the beleaguered Minnesota Twins. Hrbek was coming into his own. He immediately showed prowess with his batting, hitting .301 with a respectable 92 RBIs and 23 dingers in his first full season. His numbers would be around these marks throughout his career, making Hrbek one of the more consistent ball players.

While 1984 might have been a shaky year for the Minnesota Twins, it did not effect their slugging first baseman. Hrbek was not bothered by the pre-season controversy involving a possible move to Tampa, and came in second in the MVP voting this season. Kent's numbers were not that far above his averages. He hit .311 with 27 taters and 107 RBIs in 149 games. However, he did finish in the top ten of five statistical categories, batting average (7), intentional walks (3), on base percentage (7), runs batted in (7), and slugging percentage (5). His performance helped the Twins finish a season with a record over .500 for the first time in 15 seasons!

Following this season, Hrbek signed a new contract with the Twins, keeping him in Minnesota for a good amount of time and making Hrbek the team's first $1 million a year player. 1 million a year, how things have changed.

Looking Up:

1985 and 86 were both poor seasons for the Twins. They hired a new manager after the 1986 season and prepared for the worst with 1987. However, the worst was not to happen. The Twins picked up reliever Jeff Reardon, catcher Tom Nieto and left fielder Dan Gladden. Reardon and Gladden would prove to be invaluable as the season progressed and realized something strange was going on, the Twins were winning! Hrbek had proven consistent, and with Kirby Puckett, Gary Gaetti and Tom Brunansky hitting well, the Twins looked like the improbable underdog going into the playoffs.

The Twins faced the Detroit Tigers in the opening round of the playoffs. Many thought that the Tigers would roll over the Twins, just like the Tigers did to the Toronto Blue Jays to finish out their season. However, the Twins had the upper hand thanks to their home field advantage. The Twins won the series 4-1 thanks to a stand up performance by Gary Gaetti.

On October 12, The Twins met the St. Louis Cardinals in game 1 of the 1987 World Series. Minnesota played well in the first game, easily winning the game with a score of 10-1. The Twins carried their momentum into the second game, and were victorious in an 8-4 game. However, once the Series traveled to St. Louis, things changed. The Cardinals swept their homestand, and the series returned to Minnesota with the Twins' backs up against a wall.

In the make-or-break game 6, the Twins decided to keep their ace pitcher, Frank Viola, for the possible game 7, and started Les Straker. Things looked bad for the Twins until Don Baylor smacked a 3-run jack, tying the game at 4 apiece in the fourth inning. While it looked like it would be anyone's game, things changed in the 6th inning. With the bases juiced, Hrbek did what he had done consistantly all season, and all during his career with the Twins, he hit a home run. With the score now 9-4, momentum again shifted to the Twins as they stuck it out and won the game 11-5, forcing a 7th and deciding game in Minneapolis. Viola closed out the series, thanks to a perfect 9th inning from closer Jeff Reardon, and the Twins won the game 4-2.

Next Season is always a New Season:

1988 was a weird season for the Minnesota Twins. While the team played well and actually improved their regular season record from the previous year, they failed to make the playoffs, due to the 104-58 record of the Oakland A's. Kent played well, and had the best hitting year of his career (.312 batting average). Hrbek batted similarly in the following season, afterwhich the Twins faced a dilemma. Both Hrbek, and closer Jeff Reardon were free agents, and the team could only afford to keep one of these players. Hrbek's price was driven up due to the interest of several other teams. Despite more money, Hrbek decided to stay in Minnesota, and took a 5 year, $14 million dollar contract. Reardon took a 3 year deal with the Boston Red Sox.

1990 would not prove to be the year of the Minnesota Twins. Despite all their key bats being in place, the Twins finished in last place in the American League West. However, the Twins did something impressive that stood out. On July 17, the Twins played the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Both in the fourth inning, and in the eighth, the Twins pulled two simple ground balls to third baseman Gary Gaetti into 2 successful triple plays, 5-4-3. Both plays ended with a throw to Kent, who was waiting at first base.

With the lackluster 1990 season behind them, the Twins started their season at new spring training facilities in Fort Meyers, Florida. Despite the new buildings, the Twins started weak, going 2 and 9 on a west coast road trip. As the season progressed, the team coalesced, winning 15 more games than they lost in the month of ]June\. With this surge of play, the Twins took the lead in the West division and never looked back. They finished out the season with the lead, and looked to the playoffs with spirits high, hoping for a repeat of the 1987 season.

In the opening round of the playoffs, the Twins faced off against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Twins took the first game thanks to the pitching of Jack Morris. The Blue Jays came back strong in the following game, taking the first playoff win by a road team at the Metrodome. The Twins played strong as the series went to Toronto, taking the next three games in order to move to the World Series. A week later, the Atlanta Braves made the trip up from toasty Georgia to chilly Minnesota to play. The took the first game of the series thanks to homers by both Kent Hrbek and Greg Gagne. The Twins squeaked by with a solo shot from Scott Leius, which made a one run loser of Tom Glavine in the 8th inning.

As the teams turned to warmer climates, the games became more intense. The Twins were looking to win their first championship on the road since they came to Minnesota, and the first in the team's history since 1925. However, things would not go as the Twins would hope. Not only Hrbek, but several other of the Twins' big bats struggled in the foreign park. The Braves came back and swept their homestand, taking all three games played at Turner Field. The return to the Metrodome proved deadly for Atlanta, as Kirby Puckett heated up and started playing some excellent ball, both offensively and defensively. Hrbek still struggled during this series not producing much save for the first game in the contest. Despite Kent Hrbek's lack of production, the Twins beat the Braves twice at home, winning the World Series at home again.

It All Has to End:

The Twins played well, but did not do too much between this World Series and Hrbek's retirement in 1994. In 1993 he became the second Twin to reach 1,000 RBI (Behind Harmon Killebrew). Six days before the end of the 94 season, which was shortened by a players' strike, Kent Hrbek announced his retirement. Hrbek, a career Twin, ranks in the top 5 in almost every major offensive category in Twins history. Kent's number, 14, was retired the following season.

Statistics:

Number: 14
Position: First Base
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Height: 6' 4"
Weight: 235 lb.
 Year Tm   G   AB    R    H   2B 3B  HR  RBI  SB CS  BB  SO   BA   OBP   SLG  
 1981 MIN  24   67    5   16   5  0   1    7   0  0   5   9  .239  .301  .358 
 1982 MIN 140  532   82  160  21  4  23   92   3  1  54  80  .301  .363  .485 
 1983 MIN 141  515   75  153  41  5  16   84   4  6  57  71  .297  .366  .489 
 1984 MIN 149  559   80  174  31  3  27  107   1  1  65  87  .311  .383  .522 
 1985 MIN 158  593   78  165  31  2  21   93   1  1  67  87  .278  .351  .444 
 1986 MIN 149  550   85  147  27  1  29   91   2  2  71  81  .267  .353  .478 
 1987 MIN 143  477   85  136  20  1  34   90   5  2  84  60  .285  .389  .545  
 1988 MIN 143  510   75  159  31  0  25   76   0  3  67  54  .312  .387  .520  
 1989 MIN 109  375   59  102  17  0  25   84   3  0  53  35  .272  .360  .517  
 1990 MIN 143  492   61  141  26  0  22   79   5  2  69  45  .287  .377  .474  
 1991 MIN 132  462   72  131  20  1  20   89   4  4  67  48  .284  .373  .461  
 1992 MIN 112  394   52   96  20  0  15   58   5  2  71  56  .244  .357  .409  
 1993 MIN 123  392   60   95  11  1  25   83   4  2  71  57  .242  .357  .467 
 1994 MIN  81  274   34   74  11  0  10   53   0  0  37  28  .270  .353  .420  

Totals:  1747 6192  903 1749 312 18 293 1086  37 26 838 798  .282  .367  .481 



 Year Round Tm  Opp WLser  G  AB  R  H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO  BA    OBP   SLG  SB
 1987 ALCS  MIN DET   W    5  20  4  3  0  0  1   1  3  0  .150  .261  .300  0
      WS    MIN STL   W    7  24  4  5  0  0  1   6  5  3  .208  .345  .333  0
 1991 ALCS  MIN TOR   W    5  21  0  3  0  0  0   3  1  3  .143  .182  .143  0
      WS    MIN ATL   W    7  26  2  3  1  0  1   2  2  6  .115  .179  .269  0

  2 World Series     2-0  14  50  6  8  1  0  2   8  7  9  .160  .263  .300  0
  4 Postseason Ser   4-0  24  91 10 14  1  0  3  12 11 12  .154  .245  .264  0

Kent Hrbek Statistics - Baseball-Reference.com - http://www.baseball-reference.com/h/hrbekke01.shtml#TRANS
Kent Hrbek - BaseballLibrary.com - http://www.baseballlibrary.com/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/H/Hrbek_Kent.stm
Minnesota Twins: The Official Site - http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/index.jsp?c_id=min

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