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Ventura Wanted Hrbek for Lieutenant Governor
by Jim Souhan


MINNEAPOLIS -- When Kent Hrbek played for the Minnesota Twins, he frequently pinned teammates to the clubhouse floor, then predicted a future for himself in pro wrestling.

But when Jesse (The Body) Ventura asked Hrbek during the summer to be his tag-team partner better known as lieutenant governor in the gubernatorial race, Hrbek disqualified himself, saying he couldn't govern with a foreign object (a fishing pole, shotgun or bowling ball) in his hands.

``I'd have missed my hunting trip this weekend if I would have ran with him,'' Hrbek said. ``Or, I would have gone anyway, and I would have gotten off on the wrong foot on that job.

``I'm happy the way it turned out. I thought it was great. But I'm not a politician. Then again, neither is Jesse.''

Ventura and Hrbek told friends of Ventura's offer this summer, but both of them kept the offer quiet publicly until Wednesday, when a reporter called Hrbek at home.

``I think he can do this without me,'' Hrbek said. ``Heck, he did everything else without me.''

A longtime wrestling fan, Hrbek voted for Ventura, as did many of his friends.

``He loves Minnesota, just as much as I love Minnesota,'' Hrbek said. ``And I think there's a lot of people who really like Minnesota, and they gave him four years to give it a shot.

``To me, it seems like there are a lot of people around here with a bounce in their step because of Jesse.''

As a player, Hrbek was glib and honest with reporters he knew, but didn't enjoy mass interviews. He felt for Ventura when he saw him besieged by minicams.

``I felt sorry for the guy this morning, seeing him on one station after another,'' Hrbek said. ``I mean, give him some sleep. But he's done wonderful with them. He gives straight answers. He'd have made a helluva ballplayer. He tells it like it is, and that's the way I did it.''

Ventura has vowed not to spend public money on a new stadium for the Twins. Hrbek understands that approach, but hopes Ventura will find a way to replace the Metrodome.

``Me and a pile of my buddies all hate the dome,'' Hrbek said. ``I hate it _ it's all plastic. I played there for 13 years and loved it, but when you're playing you don't know you have a roof over your head. When you become a fan, it's very different _ you've got to be comfortable these days.

``Three different places passed amendments for new stadiums _ Cincinnati, Denver and Pittsburgh. We've got a Reform Party governor and we've got no stadium.

``I think Jesse will help us out with that. He said he won't use taxpayer's money, but I think he might be able to get something done. We've got to cheer up that atmosphere and make baseball fun again.''

Hrbek is leaving for a quail-hunting fundraiser to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Mitchell, S.D. Although the former first baseman didn't help Ventura get to first base in the campaign, he said he'd be glad to lend Ventura a hand.

``I'm on the fundraising trail right now,'' Hrbek said. ``Now I guess I've got to start fundraising for Jesse. If he wants me to go sit on the Capitol steps and sign autographs, I will.

``You know, I think people wanted a change. They got so sick of all the Democrat and Republican stuff, and said, 'Let's go with the horse farmer.'''

Hrbek praised Ventura awhile longer, then said he had to embark on his busy day.

``I've got to go bowling, and then I'm going hunting,'' Hrbek said. ``Tough schedule, huh?''