As some of you may know, I've lived my whole life up in the frozen north of Minnesota. I grew up cheering for all the sports teams up here and continue to this day. I can honestly say though that there probably isn't another sports person as big as Kirby Puckett around these parts. I'm sure you already know, but Kirby Puckett passed away today after a massive stroke at the young age of 45.
I had the pleasure to both see Kirby play as I was growing up and meet Kirby in person after he was out of baseball. He did a lot of good things up here in the area (he had several charity drives where millions were made) outside of sports, but he quietly relocated to Arizona after he was found innocent of sexual abuse charges and dropped his Vice Presidency in the Twins organization.
All I heard on the talk stations around here was how even early on in his career he made it known that he didn't think he'd live to age 50. Many people in his family died from heart troubles before they hit the age of 50 and Kirby evidently figured he was no different. He didn't help himself much after he was divorced and moved to Arizona. News reports say he was over 300 pounds at one point. 300 pounds on a 5'8" guy is not a good thing. He also was supposedly depressed, althoug he had plans to remarry in June. I don't think he ever got over the stories that tarnished his life after baseball and maybe he felt Minnesotans had abandoned him, but I think that was an incorrect view of the situation. I'm sure he's up in heaven smiling down on a state filled with grief over his death.
There was a local sports writer who went to a Children's Hospital recently and asked 50 sick children who they thought was the best sports player in Minnesota. All 50 children said Kirby Puckett. These are just children that probably never saw Kirby at all (remember, he finished playing 10 years ago), which means that their parents are handing down the legacy of the great Kirby Puckett to their kids and I also hope those children teach their children the same thing.
It's a sad day up here in Puckettland and I can only hope if the state ever does build a new baseball stadium that it will be named after Puckett, the most famous of all sportspeople here in Minnesota...past, present and most likely future.
Touch 'em all Kirby Puckett...touch 'em all...