I played baseball until high school. I was never a fanatic and I was certainly never good at it but to me, baseball was summer. It represented all that was good in America.
In high school, however, I discovered that I would rather sling a guitar over my shoulder than a baseball bat. I never memorized the statistics of the game and I lost track of the names.
Except for one name, that is: Kirby Puckett.
I was living and working in Minneapolis when the Twins won the '91 World Series. There was a parade downtown and I left my office to watch it go by. Seemingly in the center of it all was Kirby Puckett. He hadn't forced his way to the center he was just naturally there. His smile, his talent and his enthusiasm brought focus and fun to the game for fans and non-fans alike. For me, and for millions of others like me, Kirby Puckett was baseball he represented all of the good things in that great game.
In later years, there were reports of some serious flaws but this isn't the time for that. This is the time to remember the good the hope and joy he brought to the game and to the millions who saw him play. Whether hitting a home run in the Metrodome or scaling the centerfield wall for a catch, all things seemed possible for that sometimes-maligned team.
And indeed, it was. With more hits than anyone in the history of the sport during his first 10 years, with two World Series wins, with home runs and stolen bases, with baseballs tossed from deep centerfield to home plate, with Puckett smiling through it all, he made America's sport a game to watch. And he reminded me, a onetime fan who had long forgotten, that baseball is indeed played on a field of dreams.
But he left us all too early. Godspeed Kirby Puckett thanks for memories, the joy and the enthusiasm. And thanks for the reminder.