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April 6, 2011

It's a Family Affair at Target Field

Opening Day at Target Field Friday is shaping up to be a true family affair for the Minnesota Twins

Among the events planned…the unveiling of a bronze statue celebrating Twins legend Tony Oliva. But as it turns out, the former outfielder isn’t the only Oliva getting into the act.

The National Anthem will be performed by Rick Oliva, Tony’s son. He’ll be joined by Maria Versalles…the daughter of former Twins shortstop and 1965 AL MVP Zoilo Versalles.

Also on the slate, an outfield sign counting up to 600 home runs for designated hitter Jim Thome…who enters the homestand against Oakland with with 589 career homers.

There will also be a sign counting down to the number of games remaining until former Twin (and current announcer) Bert Blyleven is inducted into the Hall of Fame this July.

The family of Blyleven’s fellow Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett (Kirby Jr. and Catherine Puckett) will be on hand to ceremonially open Gate 34.

The capper on the whole day was to be Harmon Killebrew, who is battling esophageal cancer, showing up in Minnesota to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. But, unfortunately, it was announced late Wednesday night that that won’t happen.

"Nita and I were truly looking forward to coming home to Minnesota to be part of the home opening festivities at Target Field," Killebrew said in a statement released by the team. "But it turns out the trip to Minnesota would unduly disrupt my treatment schedule, so we have reluctantly decided to remain in Arizona with a resolve to defeat this disease."

Filling in for the Hall of Famer is, drum roll please, Tony Oliva…who will toss the ceremonial first pitch to Killebrew's grandson Casey.

See…family affair!

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