MINNEAPOLIS -- Kent Hrbek's first career game came at Yankee Stadium, and he manned the same first-base bag that the legendary Lou Gehrig covered during his time in New York. Ironically, Hrbek's career began just four months after his father was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease, named after the Yankees first baseman who was afflicted with the disease in his final years in New York.
"It's such a weird tie," Hrbek said.As all Major League teams honored the 70th anniversary of Gehrig's famous farewell speech at Yankee Stadium, Hrbek was called upon Saturday to deliver a reading of Gehrig's words. Certainly an emotional speech for Gehrig, Hrbek, too, had to hold his emotions in check as he read the words from first base at the Metrodome prior to the Twins' game against the Tigers. "I had a hard time finishing up the speech," Hrbek said. "I got a little choked up just from the fact that you think about what this guy talked about and what kind of person he was." Since his father, Ed, passed away from ALS during Hrbek's rookie season in 1982, Hrbek has dedicated much of his time to raise awareness of the disease and money for ALS research through various charities such as his annual golf and fishing tournaments. Due in part to both Hrbek and the Twins' involvement with ALS awareness, more fans in the state of Minnesota have become aware of the disease. "I've been fighting this cause for 27 years," Hrbek said. "It's pretty neat that Major League Baseball has jumped on this. ... I think it's going to make a huge difference. The Twins have always been fantastic; there's no doubt about that. You talk about ALS in Minnesota, people know what you're talking about. "It's a huge day. I think it's a huge day for ALS and the people affected."
Tyler Mason is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.