The Minnesota Twins have always been faithful to their hometown boys. They recently locked up Joe Mauer, possibly the greatest catcher in baseball history, to an enormous, non-Twins like contract and treated fellow Minnesota native Kent Hrbek well when he was wearing the Twin Cities uniform. A solid power threat during the 1980s, Kent can now be seen early in the mornings on cable television hosting his show “Kent Hrbek Outdoors.”
Originally drafted by the Twins in the 17th round of the 1978 draft, Hrbek spent a couple of seasons in the bushes but when he terrorized California League pitchers with a .379 batting average in 1981, the Twins called their hometown hero up from A-Ball and Kent never had another minor league at-bat. Called up late in ’81, Kent took over the struggling Danny Goodwin’s job and held the first base job in the Twin Cities until his retirement in 1994.
Hrbek was a rookie sensation in 1982. Named to the American League All-Star team, Kent had an exceptional offensive line of .301 BA/23 HR/92 RBI. He missed out on the Rookie of the Year Award to some kid named Cal Ripken Jr. but finished ahead of such notables as Gary Gaetti, Wade Boggs, Jesse Barfield and Von Hayes. Although his homerun total fell to 16 in 1983, his doubles total spiked to a career high 41–tops among Major League first basemen.
Hrbek failed to reach 20 homeruns in 1983 but he would rack up at least 20 dingers every year from 1984 to 1992. He established himself as a legitimate star in 1984 when he posted a great offensive line of .311 BA/.522 SA/27 HR/107 RBI. Hrbek was the horsepower that kept the Twins offense a-goin’ and for his troubles he finished as the runner-up in MVP voting.
He reached new heights in the homerun department in 1986 when he slugged 29 balls over the fence but took his power production up another level in 1987, when he led the Twins to a World Series title. That year Hrbek posted his career best homerun total with 34 long balls. The left-handed hitting slugger posted a nifty .389 on-base percentage and slugged the apple at a terrific .545 clip (ninth best in the AL). In the Fall Classic, Kent blasted a homerun and drove in six runs as the Twins downed the Cardinals of St. Louis.
Kent ran his batting average up over .300 for the third time in his career in 1988. He topped American League first basemen with a .312 batting average and only he and Fred McGriff slugged over .515 amongst AL initial sackers. The following year Kent was blasting the ball at a terrific rate but an injury cut short his season and he had to settle for 25 homeruns in 109 games. Kent hit .287 in 1990 and then .284 in 1991. In the latter campaign, Kent and Don Mattingly were the only two American League first basemen to walk more than they struck out.
The Twins made their second World Series appearance with Hrbek on their roster in 1991 and just like his first trip to the Fall Classic, they were victorious. During Hrbek’s career, he was never on the losing roster in postseason play. He made two trips to the World Series and has two rings to show for it. After eight straight years of 20 or more homeruns, Kent fell to fifteen taters in 1992 due to an injury. Healthy again in ’93, Hrbek blasted 25 homeruns to give him an even ten years of reaching 20 long balls. Kent played one final year in 1994 for the Twins before giving his job to youngsters Scott Stahoviak and David McCarty.
G 1,747/R 903/H 1,749/2B 312/3B 18/HR 293/RBI 1,086/BB 838/SO 798/SB 37/BA .282/SA .481