In 2011, the Minnesota Twins announced that legend Harmon Killebrew’s health was deteriorating and he was entering hospice care. Fans around the country, and especially in the Upper Midwest, chimed in to tell tales of Killebrew. I recall finding it interesting that very few of those stories had anything to do with anything that occurred on a baseball field. Most of these stories involved something he had told a kid, shaking hands with fans, his impeccably legible autograph, or some charitable event that he came to and inspired masses. People talked about how great he was as a person.
His baseball prowess was hardly mentioned. His 573 home runs. His 1,584 RBI. His MVP. His six AL home run championships. His 11 All Star appearances. Those are all part of his story, but the stories people told were of Harmon Killebrew, the great human being.
Following Killebrew’s death, the Minnesota Twins established the Harmon Killebrew Award for Community Service, and each year, the Twins have named one winner for each of their four full-season affiliates. Each affiliate’s GM nominated a recipient who exemplifies Killebrew through their work in the community.
Yesterday, we announced that Brian Rapp was the 2019 Killebrew Award recipient for the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Today, we’ll discuss the 2019 Killebrew Award recipient of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, right-hander Hector Lujan.
Hector Lujan was the Twins 35th round pick in 2015 out of Westmont College. This isn’t his first Killebrew Award. He was the 2017 choice for the Cedar Rapids Kernels. He began the 2019 season in Ft. Myers but was moved up to Pensacola by mid-June. Combined, he posted a 2.76 ERA over 58 2/3 innings with 55 strikeouts.
However, it is off the field where Lujan has also had a huge effect.
Anna Striano is the Blue Wahoos Community Relations Manager, and she thought that Lujan was a terrific choice. She told Twins Daily recently, “Hector was our choice for the award because he truly lived out our mission - to improve the quality of life for those in our community.”
She continued, ‘A regular visitor to our ‘autograph alley,’ Hector made time both before and after games to make sure that each child not only got the autograph that they were after, but also left with a smile on their face. As one of our players with the most community hours volunteered this season. Hector was consistently engaging with members of our community from all different walks of life. Whether it be visiting sick children in the hospital or catching a ceremonial first pitch, he was always the first to jump in when we needed volunteers, and always did so with a smile on his face.”
The award does mean a lot to Lujan, and he appreciates the opportunities he has as a professional ballplayer.
“It's an honor to receive an award named after Hall of Famer, Harmon Killebrew. It is also an honor to be a part of an organization that has such an impact on their community. The focus that Pensacola and the Twins have on the community was great! Lots of community interaction between the players and the fans. Hearing about the community leader that Harmon Killebrew was, I can only hope that throughout my baseball career and life, I can leave a mark on the community as he did. I want to be known as someone that gave all I had, both on and off the field and do whatever I can to help make a change in a good way in kids lives or even adults.”
Striano mentioned a couple of the events that Lujan participated in. “Over the season, Hector visited Nemours Children’s Hospital on three separate occasions and stopped by the Studer Family Children’s Hospital as well. Hector was also a part of the ‘Hit a Homerun for Early Literacy’ program. During this event he read Clifford Makes the Team to an audience of about 50 children ranging in age from infancy to kindergarten. During each event Hector was always engaging and approachable – often going the extra mile to make these experiences truly memorable by creating personal interactions with each fan, patient, or person he encountered.”
Lujan spoke of a couple of his favorite activities. “Two of my favorite things that I got to do were hospital visits and a boys and girls club baseball game.”
Let’s start with his thoughts on visiting the local hospitals, bringing smiles to the kids and also listening to parents.. “Some of the activities that were great that I and some players were involved in were hospital visits to kids. Seeing the faces lit up on the kids when walking into the room really made our day. Talking to them and being able to hangout with them and have conversations with them was also fun being able to learn all sorts of things from them. The conversations with the parents and seeing how grateful they were when spending time with their kids was also great and it made us feel very grateful to see them happy by spending time with their kids and family.”
Regarding the baseball games, Lujan noted, “The boys and girls club baseball game was a BLAST! Some police and fire department staff were there too which made it even more entertaining being able to play with them and have great conversations.”
Again, this is not new to Lujan. He not only has been doing work in the communities in which he has played as a pro baseball player but was involved in community in college and earlier.
“It was a great time all around being able to participate in the community and represent the Pensacola Blue Wahoos and the Twins.”
Striano summarize Lujan’s impact quite well in saying “To me, Hector is the embodiment of ‘it’s bigger than baseball,’ and we are proud to recognize and thank him for the work he did in the Pensacola community.”
Previous Twins Double-A Killebrew Award winners:
2011 - Bobby Lanigan
2012 - Shawn Roof
2013 - Dan Rohlfing
2014 - Tony Thomas
2015 - Tim Shibuya
2016 - David Hurlbut
2017 - Travis Harrison
2018 - Chris Paul
Other 2019 Killebrew Award Recipients
Rochester Red Wings - Coming Soon
Pensacola Blue Wahoos - Hector Lujan
Fort Myers Miracle - Coming Soon
Cedar Rapids Kernels - Brian Rapp
Congratulations to Hector Lujan on earning the 2019 Harmon Killebrew Award for Community Service for the Blue Wahoos.
This story originally appeared at Twins Daily and was re-shared as part of a collaboration between Twins Daily and Bring Me The News.