ST. PAUL, Minn. – When Kent Hrbek retired from baseball in 1994, he was 34 years old. He could have played another five seasons or more. It just didn’t interest him.

“My body was getting beat up and I didn’t like it,” said Hrbek, the best first baseman the Twins ever had. “Financially, I was fine and I got to roll around on the ground with my kid.”

When he wasn’t spending time with his then 2-year-old daughter, Heidi, and wife, Jeanie, Hrbek had no trouble filling up his day.

“I kept myself busy enough. I’ve got a thousand hobbies,” he said. “Golf, fishing and hunting takes up a lot of time. I had people to see, places to go.”

There was one place he didn’t plan to go – to work. He didn’t need the money, so why work? Hrbek was asked at his retirement party if he had any interest in doing an outdoors TV show. Nah, he told Eric Gislason, a sports reporter at KSTP-TV who always believed Hrbek would be a perfect host because of his love for the outdoors. After all, this was somebody who went duck hunting the morning of Game 7 of the 1987 World Series.

“I told him I wanted to stay retired,” Hrbek said. “I didn’t want to punch a clock.”

Then, two years ago, after they finished a round of golf, Gislason asked Hrbek again about doing that outdoors show.

Nearly a decade had passed since he retired from the Twins, so Hrbek had fewer people to see, fewer places to go.

“I decided to go for it,” Hrbek said.

With the financial backing of two business partners, Gislason and Hrbek started “Kent Hrbek Outdoors,” which debuted in September and is televised in seven cities and four states.

Most shows include a celebrity guest Hrbek takes hunting or fishing. He went fishing on a Minnesota lake with Torii Hunter, and flew down to Florida to fish with Brad Radke and Doug Mientkiewicz. He also has done shows with former Gov. Jesse Ventura, current Gov. Tim Pawlenty, golfer Fuzzy Zoeller, former Vikings coach Bud Grant and Vikings center Matt Birk. One show was spent with figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi and her husband, NHL defenseman Bret Hedican, at their cabin on Gull Lake.

“We got the first steps of Kristi and Bret’s daughter on camera,” Hrbek said proudly.

“People really drop their guard with Herbie,” Gislason said. “It’s not rocket science. We’re trying to celebrate a lot of what people do here.”

Birk called his fishing trip with Hrbek “real comfortable . . . he’s a great guy to hang out with.”

This is the perfect job for Hrbek because it really isn’t a job.

“It’s a fit for me. I love to go out and hunt and sit around the campfire and drink beers with people, and now I’m getting paid for it,” Hrbek said. “Every time I went to South Dakota or North Dakota to hunt or fish, somebody would find out I was in town and there always was a camera. What’s the difference if we bring a camera for the show? The only thing I’ve found different is I’ve got to ask questions. When I hunt or fish, I’m keyed in. Sometimes, I forget to ask questions. All the other stuff is fun. It’s been a blast.”

The show also has been popular. Gislason said they had hoped to have a 2 rating in their first season. In the last ratings period, the show had a 4.3 rating and a 13 share.

“Nobody is coming up to Herbie and saying “Thanks for the memories and winning two World Series.’

They’re saying they like the show,” said Gislason, who co-hosts and produces the show. “We put rocks together and made a rock pile.”

There already are a half- dozen segments completed for the second season, which starts in September.

There will be other seasons, as long as Hrbek wants to continue doing the show and people continue watching it.

The office is above an air conditioning and heating supplies company owned by one of the show’s partners, Mike Metzger, and it is strategically located just a half-mile from Hrbek’s Bloomington home.

“I asked him, “Where’s the closest place you go to get milk?’ ” Gislason said. “We put an office as close as we could to that. The last thing I wanted to do was convince Herbie it’s a job. But he’s in the office, answering the phones and saying, “Kent Hrbek Outdoors, this is Kent.’ He dives in like a champ.”

While Gislason says he would like to syndicate the show nationally, Hrbek is content sticking with the four Upper Midwest states it’s already broadcast in – Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota.

“We’re trying to be a big fish in a small pond instead of a little tiny fish in a big pond,” Hrbek said. “If somebody says, “Kent Hrbek is in Chicago, people in Chicago will say, “Huh?’ Keep it local. Keep it simple.”

And that, Hrbek believes, is what will keep it going.

“If it becomes a pain in the butt or the workload isn’t fun, I’ll stop,” said Hrbek, who turned 45 in May. “I don’t know if it will go until I’m 65, but we’ll see how it goes.”


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