Kent Hrbek: `Here's One For The Fat Boys'

When Kent Hrbek threw his 250 pounds headfirst into third base in spring training and suffered a shoulder dislocation, weight watchers could say they told him so. They figured that's too much weight to carry, much less throw, around.

Considering Hrbek is hitting .326, he can tell the weight watchers he told them so, especially after he extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a bunt single and his 250th home run in a 4-2 Twins victory Tuesday in Kansas City. Hrbek is, after all, hitting a lot more than his weight.

"I'm not the type of person who works real hard in the off-season," Hrbek said, trying to explain a fast start that includes seven home runs and 25 RBI.

"Ever since I was a kid, I've been able to swing a bat pretty well. I wasn't really worried about not being able to hit. I'm hitting better than I thought I would, but I don't have to do a lot to get myself prepared to hit."

Hrbek, who finds baseball boring to watch, admits being grumpy while he was disabled until April 23. Yet, he was not kicking himself about the slide.

"No, that's the way I play the game," he said. "I go out and try hard. I'm a big guy, and people think I'm too big at times. But I go out and play like I was playing ball with my buddies when I was a kid.

"I was a head taller than everybody else, and if they ran through the bushes to catch a pop-up, I ran through the bushes. If they made a hole in the snow bank and tried crawling through it and

the hole wasn't big enough for me, I'd try to get in there, anyway."

It should come as no surprise that Hrbek, who grew to 6 feet 4, logged time on the kids' DL.

"We were playing kick the can one time and I ran into a buddy of mine. I cut my head open. He was a foot shorter than I was, and he hit me with his teeth in my forehead," he said.

"I had scrapes and bumps all the time. My mom couldn't put enough patches on the knees of my pants because I was always out there getting dirty."

Hrbek, despite assorted sprains and dislocations, has played at least 140 games in eight of his 10 full seasons. But some check out his .289 average, 243 home runs and 892 RBI through 1991 and ask what a leaner and meaner Hrbek might achieve.

"I always get the question `What if?"' Hrbek said. "Who knows? What's wrong with what's happening now?"

The fat jokes do not end when Hrbek is home in Bloomington, Minn. He wears a T-shirt with a drawing of a man busting out of his pants. It was a Christmas present from his wife, Jeanie.

"She gets in the game, too," Hrbek said, grinning. "(She asks): `Why are they always calling you "Fat Stuff?' " She wanted me to lose a few pounds, so she gave me this shirt. It didn't work.

"I try eating salads all winter long. It doesn't work. This is the way I'm going to be."

Twins Manager Tom Kelly has no dietary advice after enjoying two World Series championships, thanks in no small part to Hrbek and Kirby Puckett. Neither is expected to become a Jenny Craig spokesman. As for Hrbek's injuries, Kelly compares them to those of a hard-running race horse.

"The good ones that try and give you a real good shot, they're the ones who seem to come up hurt once in a while," Kelly said.

"Why? Because they're trying hard and pouring out their guts all the time. It's the same way with players."

Hrbek would rather be compared with John Kruk, the dumpy Phillie who leads the major leagues in hitting. He was delighted to see Kruk on ESPN's latest "Sunday Night Conversation."

"I loved every second of it," Hrbek said. "The guy's hitting over .370. That's one for the fat boys."