Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.

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Michael Hirschbeck's death will hit Tom Kelly

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: April 12, 2014 - 9:25 AM

Michael Hirschbeck, the son of veteran umpire John Hirschbeck, died Tuesday at age 27. This was the second son of the Hirschbeck family to die, following John Drew at age 8 in 1993.

I met Michael at the Metrodome in August 1997, while covering a Twins-Yankees game. I wrote a game story for the Aug. 11 edition of the Star Tribune where the details of the game played very much a supporting role to the relationship between Michael and the Twins.

Here's a hunk of that game story:

THE TWINS HAD lost again, 9-6, to the New York Yankees on Sunday at the Metrodome. Chad Curtis' first career grand slam made it 7-0 in the third inning and doomed rookie lefthander Travis Miller to another abysmal start.

Miller yielded seven runs (six earned) in 2 2/3 innings. He also went 2 2/3 innings when he faced Toronto five days earlier.

Manager Tom Kelly went through his postgame interview with a small group of Twin Cities reporters, and stated the obvious:

"Travis had a lot of trouble, giving up seven runs. We missed one play during all of that, but a pitcher has to be able to come back and pick up a player once in a while.’’

The interview ended and the reporters went looking for other sources. Pitching coach Dick Such said Miller "seemed to have a different release point" when he pitched from the stretch. Miller had no meaningful explanation for his futility.

Bob Tewksbury, on the disabled list for the second time, will throw batting practice today. If his tender shoulder continues to be pain-free, Tewksbury could pitch Friday in Boston. Miller … has defaulted that spot with an 0-3 record and a 9.42 ERA.

While the reporters were talking to Such, Miller and Tewksbury, Kelly had gone to the shower. He was walking back to his office - wrapped in a towel - when he spotted a boy talking to bullpen coach Rick Stelmaszek.

Kelly touched the boy on the shoulder and asked, "How are you doing today, Michael?" The boy turned and said, "Very good. Nice to see you. That was a good game."

Kelly said, "You're right. It would've been nice to win, but it was a good game. Our players kept battling."

The boy nodded in agreement. He was Michael Hirschbeck, 10, the son of umpire John Hirschbeck, who worked second base in Sunday's Twins-Yankees game.

Michael has a rare brain disease [adrenoleukodystrophy; ALD].. He underwent a bone-marrow transplant in at the University of Minnesota Hospitals in 1992. His brother, John Drew, had the same disease. John Drew died on March 7, 1993, at age 8.

"Tom Kelly went over and visited Michael at the hospital three or four times during and after the transplant," John Hirschbeck said. "And Michael always looked forward to watching the Twins' games on television while he was in there. Michael didn't care if the games lasted three hours. The more baseball, the better."

The Hirschbeck family will be back at the hospital today for a six-month checkup.

"Michael was progressing and we had gotten to the point where they were going to put him on a once-a-year schedule for checkups," Hirshbeck said. "Then, the doctors saw some things the last time we were here that weren't exactly right, so they made it a six-month schedule."

Hirschbeck paused and said: "Michael will have a long day at the hospital Monday. It was great that he had a chance to see a ballgame and to go to the Twins' locker room today. He's always excited when he gets a chance to see T.K."

Michael had come down the corridor from the Twins' clubhouse to the umpires' dressing room. He overheard this and said, "I showed the Twins my four-quarter trick. I fooled 'em all."

Even Tom Kelly? "Yes, I showed him, too," Michael said.

A visitor asked Michael if Kelly was his favorite manager. "Yes," he said, emphatically.

The Twins lost again Sunday. They are now 14 games under .500 (51-65), a season low. Michael Hirschbeck doesn't care. The Twins' manager is still his buddy.

UPDATE: Ron Gardenhire, the Twins' third base coach when this column was written, also had a close relationship with Michael -- so much so that he was away from managing the Twins on Friday and Saturday to attend the young man's funeral.



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Kansas City
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NY Giants
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San Francisco
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TBA 1/3/15 2:00 AM
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Toronto 110 FINAL
LA Clippers 98
Boston 88 FINAL
Washington 101
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Charlotte 94
Memphis 103 FINAL
Miami 95
Indiana 110 FINAL
Brooklyn 85
New Orleans 100 FINAL
Chicago 107
Atlanta 90 FINAL
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Philadelphia 71 FINAL
Utah 88
New York 129 FINAL
Sacramento 135
Minnesota 97 FINAL
Golden State 110
NY Islanders 3 FINAL(SO)
Buffalo 4
Detroit 3 FINAL(OT)
Ottawa 2
Carolina 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
New Jersey 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 3
Boston 2 FINAL
Columbus 6
Winnipeg 4 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 3
Washington 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
Dallas 4 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Nashville 4
Anaheim 1 FINAL(SO)
Arizona 2
Chicago 5 FINAL
Colorado 2
Edmonton 1 FINAL
Calgary 4
San Jose 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 3
Indiana 87 FINAL
Georgetown 91
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Seton Hall 72
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Minnesota 108
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Louisville 50
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Maryland 72
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BYU 80
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Ohio State 100
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UCF 27
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Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
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Penn State 31
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(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
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(6) TCU
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(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
(2) Connecticut 96
Houston 50
Gonzaga 78
Pacific 92 FINAL
San Francisco 54
St Marys-CA 62 FINAL
Santa Clara 61
San Diego 87 FINAL
Portland 65
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