FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew is taking in a little baseball as the next step in his treatment for esophageal cancer.
The 74-year-old Killebrew arrived at Minnesota Twins spring training this week for his annual stint as a guest instructor and spoke to reporters Thursday about his condition. Wearing a Twins uniform, Killebrew has lost some weight but looked healthy and was in good spirits.
He was greeted warmly by members of the team, including manager Ron Gardenhire and several players.
“It’s great to be down here,” Killebrew said. “It took me awhile to get down here, but Gardy said it was OK for me to report a little late.”
Killebrew was diagnosed with cancer in December, but said he is “feeling great” and pleased to be back in a clubhouse.
“I’m actually feeling great,” he said. “It’s kind of a long process. I started in December, and I’m still going through treatment.”
Killebrew said doctors suggested he come to Florida so he could “focus on something else.” He remains optimistic about his recovery.
With things going well on that front, Killebrew left his home in Arizona to visit his old team in Fort Myers, a baseball diversion to lighten the load of a stressful experience.
“I think it’s going to help me a lot. In fact, the doctors encouraged me to come,” Killebrew said. “For me to focus on something else, I think will be a good thing. I lost a lot of weight, but I have gained a lot back. It’s just a thing you have to go through.”
He hit 573 home runs and made 11 All-Star appearances during his 22-year career spent mostly with the Washington Senators and Twins. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984 and was fifth on the career home run list when he retired in 1975 after one season with the Kansas City Royals.
Killebrew currently ranks 11th on the all-time homer list, and his eight seasons with 40 or more homers still is tied for second in league history to Babe Ruth.
“I’m very excited to have him here,” Gardenhire said. “I respect him. I’m just happy that he’s getting a chance to get down here and get away from home for a little bit. I’m excited.”
Killebrew continues to receive letters and calls of prayer and support.
“When you go through something like this, you’re not really sure of what to expect,” he said. “The thing that’s really been an effect on me is how many people have reached out to me.”
“That’s one thing I want to say is to thank all of the people who sent cards and letters and emails and all of the well-wishes. It’s really been overwhelming and special. It sure helped me a lot.”
That, and his wife, Nita.
“This is my job, trying to get well. That’s what my whole day focuses on,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without my wife. She’s been my rock and my caretaker. She has done a tremendous job of trying to get me well.”
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