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2001 Hall of Fame Inductions
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Puckett: I'm proud to join the Hall's 'gamers'
Ever the baseball ambassador, Twins great has 'no regrets' as he enters Cooperstown.'s Kris Lien sat down with Minnesota Twins great Kirby Puckett as he prepared to enter the Hall of Fame. They talked about life after baseball, crushing curveballs and what to expect from his induction speech. You were always obviously a driven player in your career. What keeps you busy these days?

Kirby Puckett: I love "semi-retirement." That's what I like to call this. I love everything that I do (with the Twins). I'm not bogged down in one area. Whether it be media relations, public relations, politics or anything else, I can be a part of that around here. I like that because you stay busy. Of course, when there's big things around here to be done, they want my face out front, and I've gotten used to that. I have a good rapport with the people here and it's been a wonderful five years for me. They've shot by, though.

The Twins organization has been wonderful ever since it was announced that I'm going to the Hall of Fame. They've done a wonderful job, and I'll be commending them in my speech. We've never been through anything like this before, maybe the people that have been around a long time have got to see Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew go in, but most of us weren't around. This has been quite a whirlwind year for you, hasn't it?


Puckett was baseball's goodwill ambassador >>

Classic TWIB: 56k | 300k

Puckett: Since it was announced that I made it into the Hall of Fame it's been a really tough year. I made a lot of commitments in January and February. You know how you do it when you get excited and kind of jump out there a little too quick and make decisions for something to do in June, July, or August and then when it rolls around, you don't feel like doing it? But, you gave people your word and if you do that you have to stick to you word. My June and July have been absolutely action-packed. I know you try to spend your free time fishing and hanging out with your kids. What is the most exciting part of fatherhood for you?

Puckett: I'm living through my kids right now, watching them play their sports and do their thing. I'm excited about watching them grow up and becoming their own people. They have their own agenda and want to do certain things. I told my son, "I don't want you to play baseball because daddy played baseball. I don't want you to do anything for me. I've done my thing and now it's time for you to live your life. If you like baseball, fine, you can play it. If you like basketball, you can play basketball. Whatever you like, it's your choice, it's not mine. I'm just here to back you up 100 percent with whatever you decide to do. know you spend two weeks each year at Spring Training helping to coach the Twins players. Do you ever have the urge to get back into the batting cage?

Puckett: I did this year. These young guys were asking me how was I so successful and how did I hit breaking balls so well? So, I told them my theory. When I got to Spring Training, except for my first year, I never hit off the fastball machine.

I knew that if a power pitcher was throwing, I was at their mercy. But for the majority of the guys in the game, they were going to try to throw me a breaking ball to get me out. I wanted to make sure that I didn't miss those breaking balls. I was a breaking ball connoisseur, that's what I like to say, because I feasted off of breaking balls.

I got that from Tony Oliva. He got me to believe that if a guy threw me a breaking ball he was doing me a favor. Once I saw his hand like this (holding his arm up the way a pitcher comes through with a breaking ball), I knew a breaking ball was coming and I was licking my chops. Because I knew that if it was anywhere close I was going to crush it.

I did hit this spring and got in there against the curveballs. I was too quick and missed my first three or four, but then I started whacking them. I started going deep in the cage. It will be continued in Spring Training next year. you see out of your right eye at all?

Puckett: I can't see anything out of my right eye. I'm totally blind, so I'm a one-eyed person. But my left eye is 20-15. Glaucoma is the thief of sight. Once it comes it takes your sight, you'll never get it back. I'll be like this for the rest of my life. Now my job is to take care of this good eye. did the sight in your left eye improve since it had to do all of the work?

Puckett: I'm sure it did because it has to do the work of two eyes. But you can train one eye to do the work of two. I keep on it and go to the doctor every three or four months. I do everything the way that it's supposed to be done. down the road, when you are a grandpa and your grandkids are sitting on your lap asking you about the Hall of Fame, what are you going to tell them?

Puckett: I'm not one to cry much. People always ask me if I'm going to cry at the induction, but I don't see myself crying. I hate to say it, but it takes something pretty tragic for me to cry. But I think if my kids have kids and I'm around to be a grandpa, that will probably be the day that I cry. When my grandchildren are sitting on my lap, I'm going to say, "When grandpa was your age, he just wanted to play baseball. That's what he wanted to do. Grandpa never set out to be immortalized for life." I can't even fathom that thought as we talk about it. I don't even know what it means.

"Now you can tell your kids and they can tell their kids and you can go to Cooperstown, N.Y., and see grandpa's plaque hanging up there. And people can talk to you about grandpa and tell you stories about the way he played."'ve always been known as a man of many words. How is your speech coming? And how much do you think you'll wing it?

Puckett: It's not official yet. We're about 99 percent. I'm going to stick to it. I like to fly off the handle a bit. I got sat down by my agent Ron Shapiro, my wife Tonya and Michael Moss and they said, "This is probably the biggest speech you'll ever say, Kirby, so it's very important that you read this the way it's written." I don't look at papers when I speak to the public because I speak from the heart, and when you speak from the heart you don't need papers. Not saying that this isn't from the heart, but it's really hard to read verbatim in front of 25,000-30,000 people.

But I've been practicing and when I get to the Hall of Fame, this is what I'll be reading. I'm not going to go off the handle or jump off the ship. I'm going to stay right on course and hopefully I can leave a strong, powerful message and give a lot of people a lot of encouragement with the speech. know it's an exciting time for you, but how about your friends and family?

Puckett: This experience is something that less than one percent of the people in baseball get to do, it's pretty exciting. My family and friends call me all the time. My phone is ringing constantly. They are so excited counting down these last few days. They went out and bought new clothes and new cameras and video recorders, because this is really special.

I'm excited, but not that excited, even though I did go out and buy a new video camera. I never videotape anything, but I thought that I want to capture an experience like this. The only regret that I do have is that my mom and dad won't be here to see it and neither will my two brothers who passed away in the last few years. But other than that I have no regrets, and I know their spirits will be here. is your favorite thing about having your legacy live on in the Hall of Fame?

Puckett: What I hold the most dear is that all those guys whose plaques are hanging up there, they were what we call in baseball "gamers," meaning somebody who played the game the way it was supposed to be played, kind of a throw-back kind of guy.

That's what I tried to do. It really scared me if I would hit a ball back to the pitcher and didn't sprint down the line, it would bother me. Because I know that if Jackie Robinson, Duke Snyder or Mickey Mantle would have hit that ball, they would have sprinted their butts down the line.

I've always believed that there's a certain way that you should play this game. This game should be upheld in the utmost fashion. This game is very humbling, but when you put work into it and do it right, it's very rewarding. If you don't do it right and everybody sees it, you're labeled. I never wanted to be labeled. I wanted to be a guy who just played the game the way it was meant to be played like the guys before me did. That's all I wanted to do.

Kris Lien is the site reporter for