Former Minnesota Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew’s two greatest passions were remembered Saturday in Blaine during an emotional field renaming ceremony.
The Miracle League field at the Blaine Baseball Complex was renamed Killbrew Memorial Miracle League Field at a dedication attended by Killebrew’s wife, Nita, and oldest son, Cam.
“The Miracle League grabbed our heart and Harmon’s passion, because it included little kids and the sport of baseball,” Nita said.
The ceremony was conducted prior to the start of the Miracle of League of Minnesota Metro North’s season opening event at the Blaine Baseball Complex.
Killebrew helped with the drive to develop the first Miracle Field in Minnesota.
He attended a Blaine groundbreaking in 2005 and the first game played at the new field a year later.
“It’s a great feeling, but a bit emotional,” said Cam Killebrew. who was making his first visit to the Blaine Miracle Field. “It’s very satisfying to see what he created here. This is a fantastic complex, and I love the fact it’s in the middle of other fields. It’s a great place. I’m very impressed.”
During the dedication, Cam Killebrew said one of his father’s last activities before passing away last May was attending a Miracle League game near his home.
“Harmon was such a great asset to the Miracle League, and our growth,” said Kevin Thoresen, Miracle League of Minnesota executive director.
“There are 100,000 kids with special needs between the ages of five and 19, according to the Minnesota Department of Health and Human Services,” he said.
“Our leagues have 2,000 kids right now. We need more fields in strategic places, and we are working on the next two Miracle Fields in St. Paul and Brainerd.”
Thoresen said Jill Teetzel, Metro North Miracle League coordinator, and Tracy Chipman, assistant league director, were critical to the league’s local success.
Jim Kappelhoff, Blaine’s park and recreation director, said Killebrew held a shovel instead of a baseball bat when the field was first dedicated six years ago.
“He believed whole heartedly what he was doing was just as important as when he swung his mighty bat,” Kappelhoff said.
“The Miracle League kids were his heroes. This field has another chapter to finish. Today, we give this field a name to honor a Minnesota sports icon: Killebrew Memorial Miracle League Field.”
Kappelhoff was joined by Cam and Nita Killebrew in centerfield a few moments later to unveil a new commemorative scoreboard sign covered by a blue tarp.
“It was exciting to have Cam and Nita next to me,” Kappelhoff said. “Once the tarp came down and people applauded, I looked at Nita and could tell she was moved, especially when she came around to the front of the sign. There were some tears shed. This was a great celebration and a tribute.”
During his remarks, Blaine Mayor Tom Ryan shared a personal connection. He has two children in his family with special needs.
“They are autistic, and I have two neighbors who have children with Down syndrome” he said. “We’ve been blessed to have this field. We never thought this was going to happen. To see this whole ceremony is an awesome thing for the city of Blaine. It makes you feel good. The Miracle League parents are heroes for taking care of these kids.”
Baseball mascots from the Minnesota Twins, St. Paul Saints and Miracle League of Minnesota entertained Saturday before a Subway lunch was served.
Killebrew Root Beer samples were a first-time treat handed out Saturday. The drink is brewed, bottled and packaged by Ramsey-based RJM Distributing, Inc.
“This was a lot of fun,” said RJM Distributing owner Jim Lundeen. “It’s heartwarming when you can do something for these kids. They are having a good time.”
Tim Hennagir is at [email protected]