Twins Honor Kirby Puckett During Home Opener 

Twins Honor Kirby Puckett During Home Opener

The Minnesota Twins will honor former center fielder Kirby Puckett during the team's home opener at the Metrodome on Tuesday night.

Puckett died March 6 after suffering a massive stroke in his home. The Hall of Famer was 45.

Puckett's children, Catherine and Kirby Jr., will throw out the ceremonial first pitch for the home opener against the Oakland A's.

Fans will gather Tuesday night at Kirby Puckett Place for the game, but on Monday, inside the Metrodome, Ron Gardenhire and his staff were in tune to Puckett's place in Twins baseball.

"I think that the coaching staff here that was close to him and Torii (Hunter) who was close to him and a few of the guys who got to know him, sure, you know," Gardenhire said. "It's always going to be thought about. We've got his patch on our uniforms and every time I look at it I think about it."

To honor Puckett, the Twins painted his number, 34, in center field. Al Kuehner, who has worked for the grounds crew since the dome opened, painted the number.

"It's a nice little tribute to Kirby," Kuehner said. "He was always very nice to us, great guy. Just treated us well, treated us like one of the ballplayers actually."

It is not standard practice to paint on a field, but Puckett was not a standard baseball player.

"You look and see (and) there's not typically any type of logos out in center field on Major League Baseball fields," said Peter Martin, the Twins vice president of communications. "And they gave us the opportunity and a waiver to go ahead and put that out there for our entire first home stand."

The tribute means a lot to anyone who knew or was associated with Puckett. It may mean the most to Torii Hunter, who now plays in center field for the Twins. Hunter is well aware why his mentor is on his mind.

"It means a lot," Hunter said. "I have so much respect for Kirby and that's his spot, center field. He made, you know, center field here and he made me what I am today."

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