MINNEAPOLIS -- The one obvious absence as the Twins christen their new outdoor ballpark this afternoon is the late Kirby Puckett, the all-time most popular Twin before hometown hero Joe Mauer's arrival.
Boston slugger David Ortiz, the former Twin who broke into the majors in 19976, spoke eloquently about Puckett and said he thought a lot about the Hall of Famer as he was driving to Target Field on Monday.
"All I can remember when you talk about those World Series was Kirby, man," Ortiz said as the Red Sox were hitting Monday afternoon. "Everything he did, how great he was. How good he was to young players."
Though Ortiz never played with Puckett, who retired because of an eye damaged by glaucoma in 1996, Puckett was still around the Twins as Ortiz got his feet on the ground.
"He was so cool to me," Ortiz said. "It was hard to see him go. I wasn't expecting that at all. I was talking to my boy about it yesterday and today, how great he was to this organization, to the Twins.
"That's one of the main reasons I wear No. 34, because of him. I thought about him a lot today."
Ortiz, by the way, already was finding life different at the new Twins' stadium: He got lost traveling to the ballpark. Looking for the loading dock, he finally had his driver drop him at Gate 29 (Rod Carew's old number), which is one of the main stadium entrances.
Several early-bird fans got a big surprise when they saw him, and Ortiz said he signed several autographs as he was circling the stadium looking for the entrance.