Mr. Hrbek goes to Washington this week. All eyes will be on him
as he strolls through the Capitol Rotunda, working the crowd
with a firm handshake and warm smile. Is former Twins All-Star
first baseman Kent Hrbek, who's so popular in Minnesota that
Jesse Ventura asked him to run for lieutenant governor, testing
the political waters? "Come on, I got no time for politics,"
says Hrbek, who would rather be fishing for walleyes than for
Since retiring from baseball in 1994, Hrbek has turned much of
his attention to raising money to help find a cure for
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou
Gehrig's disease, and his efforts are the reason he has been
summoned to Washington. He will receive the annual All-Star
Award from the ALS Association for his outstanding contribution
to fighting the disease. ALS claimed Kent's father, Ed, near the
end of Kent's storybook 1982 rookie season, in which he hit .301
with 23 homers and 92 RBIs and seemed to get stronger as his
father's condition deteriorated. Hrbek's performance, along with
those of fellow rookies Tom Brunansky, Gary Gaetti and Frank
Viola, brought hope to a small-market franchise struggling--as
today's Twins still are--to compete with big-market teams. Two
years later Kirby Puckett arrived, and within a decade Minnesota
had won two World Series titles, in '87 and '91.
Ed taught his son to play baseball, and, in turn, Kent has used
his baseball fame in his efforts to fight ALS. In 1985 the Kent
Hrbek Celebrity Golf Tournament for ALS was born, and to date
the annual one-day tournament, dinner and auction has raised
almost a million dollars. "My rookie year was a high point and
low point for me, but the whole thing has now come full circle,"
In Kent's playing days his wife, Jeanie--mother of
seven-year-old Heidi--handled most of the event planning, but
since his retirement Kent has taken the lead and attracted
corporate sponsors who have sent tournament proceeds
skyrocketing. He often finds himself in the boardrooms of
companies like Anheuser-Busch and Target, successfully spinning
his sales pitch. "After I sign a couple of autographs, that
usually puts me over the top," he says. The rest of his time is
spent hunting, fishing or calling local businesses to solicit
donations for the tournament auction. "When we get a cure for
this thing, I'm going to rent out the Metrodome for a party,"
says Hrbek, "and everyone's invited."
COLOR PHOTO: RONALD C. MODRA
COLOR PHOTO: STEVE WEWERKA
Hrbek, whose father died of Lou Gehrig's disease, is now focused
on helping doctors find a cure.