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Continued: 'We're all praying for him'

Friends gathering

Some of Puckett's friends and former teammates either went to the hospital or are traveling to Arizona to be with him.

Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew and former teammate Ron Washington spent most of the day at the hospital. They were later joined by Eddie Guardado, and Jones planned to arrive later. Washington (a coach with the Oakland Athletics), Guardado (a Seattle Mariners relief pitcher) and Jones all train in Arizona. Killebrew was seen leaving the hospital with a group of players Sunday evening.

"He's a big part of the reason why I play this game the way I play it," Jones said. "He's a great person. We all learned from him -- me, Torii, Matt Lawton, Eddie, LaTroy [Hawkins] -- Puck tutored us all.

"It'd be tough to meet a guy that's any better than him. He's was always happy-go-lucky, even when he came down with glaucoma. That was one of the best speeches I ever heard, telling people don't feel sorry for him, that he enjoyed the game, enjoyed every minute of it. That's why he played every game like it was his last, because you never know when that day is going to come."

Twins radio broadcaster Dan Gladden, one of Puckett's closest friends and a teammate from 1987 to '91, intended to fly from Fort Myers to Arizona Sunday evening. Hunter said he was also making plans to fly to Arizona.

The last time some people in the organization saw Puckett was in November during Killebrew's charity golf tournament in Arizona.

"He was trying to do better," Gardenhire said. "... It was fun to see him."

Face of the team

Puckett hit one of the most memorable home runs in World Series history, when his shot in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series forced Game 7 against Atlanta. The Twins won the Series, their second in five years. Puckett remains an iconic figure with the club, although he has continued to keep a low profile and moved to the Phoenix area after his acquittal on the sexual assault charges in 2003. He was planning to be married again in June; he has two children by his first marriage with Tonya.

Puckett was employed as a Twins vice president from 1996 to 2002 before parting ways. This year, the team tried unsuccessfully to get him to return to spring training as a special instructor, and it still hopes to get him to return to the organization in some capacity one day.

"The Twins and Kirby Puckett are synonymous," St. Peter said. "He's a giant. In many ways he's the signature element of our franchise. In some ways I think he's one of those lovable characters, both on and off the field, that really brought a lot of people to the game. That infectious smile and the way he played the game.

"I tell people that the way I define Kirby Puckett's popularity is by the thousands and thousands of dogs and cats named after him throughout the Upper Midwest. Kirby and I always laughed about that. We're all praying for him."

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