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Everything positive said about Killebrew is true

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By Brad Ruiter, Special to the Tribune

The Minnesota Twins organization is respected and loved around the Upper Midwest because of people like Harmon Killebrew.

Some of the fondest memories I have of my time with the Twins is the opportunity to spend hours in vehicles with Harmon, taking him to and from Winter Caravan stops and other appearances around the region. Everything you hear about him as he is eulogized is absolutely true. He was a kind, gracious, and generous man. He genuinely cared about people.

I remember one specific conversation we had on the way to an appearance, when he talked about how ballplayers today don't have the same appreciation for fans as players did in his day.

The best example of that is if you had the opportunity to meet him on one of those Caravan stops. Harmon took great pride in providing every fan with his best signature when signing autographs, and taking a moment or two to engage in small talk.

I recall one tour stop, in particular, when Harmon and two current players (now former Twins) were signing autographs after the evening program.

The program had run longer than expected, and there was a crowd in excess of 1,000 people going through the autograph line. Finally, around 10:30 pm, after the last of the crowd had passed through the line, one of the current players said to me, "Is there a way we can have two separate autograph lines, so we can finish sooner?" Harmon overheard this, and as the members of our traveling party went to a late dinner at a local restaurant, he invited the two current players to sit with him at a table away from the rest of the group. I can't tell you exactly what was discussed, but I know this - it was the last time during the week either of the players complained about the length of time the autograph session lasted.

June 29, 2003 was Harmon's 67th birthday. He was in town for the weekend, doing some promotional appearances for the team. As I was bringing Harmon to one appearance on Saturday morning, he asked how Sara, (my wife, she was nine months pregnant at the time) was doing. I told him she was fine, in fact, she was due to deliver any day. We joked about having my cell phone charged and ready, the joys of having children, etc. I confided to him we had finally, after months of debate, settled on a name for our first child and told him what we planned to name him. After dropping him back at his hotel following the appearance, he said "See you later - and make sure you check your glove box, I left you something." As I opened the glove box, I saw a signed baseball which said "To my pal, Griffin, Best to You Always, Harmon Killebrew, 6-29-03". I didn't ask for him to do this, but it was one of many kind and generous gestures I witnessed by this great man.

I left the Twins to pursue other career opportunities in March of 2006. My last official day at the Twins was the night of Kirby Puckett's memorial service at the Dome. I spoke with Harmon that night, he wished me well, and asked for my address, contact info, etc. I really didn't think anything of it until about 10 days later, when a handwritten card from Scottsdale, Arizona came in the mail:

"Brad - Sorry to hear you are leaving the Twins, but I'm sure you are happy with your decision. I have really enjoyed working with you. If I can do anything for you, please don't hesitate to let me know. Good luck, and keep in touch. - Sincerely, Harmon Killebrew"

I worked with some great people in my time there, but it's ironic that the person who COULD have had the biggest ego ended up having no ego at all. The Twins have suffered their greatest loss of the season today. Rest in peace, my friend.