Continuing a long held tradition of hosting Minnesota Twins baseball greats as featured speakers for its annual membership luncheon, the Anoka Area Chamber of Commerce welcomed Hall of Famer Rod Carew June 14.
The event, staged at the newly re-opened Courtyards of Andover, drew a capacity crowd of local businessmen and women, community members and baseball fans of all ages.
The American League MVP, seven-time batting title winner and 16-straight All Star team member spoke to the crowd about what it meant to realize his dream of playing professional baseball. He expressed his gratitude to fans who cheered and booed and who always reminded him what a gift it was to play ball every day.
“I came from a kid growing up in Panama and to be able to come to this country and achieve my dream – that’s the dream of a lifetime,” Carew said.
And he gave credit where credit was due, thanking Minnesota Twins teammates Tony Oliva and Harmon Killebrew for teaching him how to carry himself on and off the field, how to respect the Minnesota Twins uniform, and to always remember “it doesn’t cost anything to be nice.”
Ultimately, Carew gave glory to God when he told the crowd, “My friend upstairs blessed me with the ability to go out and hit a baseball. My friend upstairs blessed me to have good legs, to run hard and play the game. And every day I played the game, I played for my friend upstairs … And I hope you know when I say ‘my friend upstairs’ I’m talking about my friend God.”
Carew spoke of the most important part of all he achieved in the game of baseball.
“This game has been a very instrumental part of my life as a person,” Carew said. “And the most important part is that it gave me an opportunity to give back to the community.”
For Carew, that means using his name and his celebrity to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and advance the research and the cure of those diseases.
“Life is about changing and helping people as much as we can. Those are the lessons I learned as a Minnesota Twin,” Carew said. “God gave each of us a gift: to help people around us who need help. My life now is about helping others.”
When his youngest chid, Michelle, died seven months after being diagnosed with leukemia, Carew felt a calling to work with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and to help bring an end to that fatal disease.
“I spend a lot of my time working with the Leukemia Society and when I hear ‘we saved a kid today,’ I feel that’s one of my kids,” Carew said.
The baseball great thanked those in the crowd for “allowing me to be part of your life” and then offered his services.
“If there’s anything I can do for you – visit a sick kid, visit the elderly – just call the Twins organization and they’ll get word to me,” he said.
To learn more about the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Be the Match bone marrow donor program, visit www.lls.org or www.marrow.org.
After answering diners’ questions about his baseball career – base stealing strategies, batting stance, toughest pitcher he ever faced, etc. – Carew left the stage to a standing ovation and then chatted with well-wishers before the event was adjourned.
Sue Austreng is at [email protected]