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Kolpack: Roger Maris event is here to stay

Former Minnesota Twins great Kent Hrbek among the celebrities at the Roger Maris All-Star Week, an reinvented event that's thriving after nearly 40 years.

Maris
Leigh Bjore, from left, Lou Cordileone, Dave Rose and Greg Kelly finish hole 6 during the Roger Maris charity golf tournament Thursday, June 16, 2022, at Rose Creek, Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum
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It’s one of the most amazing streaks in all of baseball, approaching Joe DiMaggio-esque proportions in its longevity and commitment. There were questions if it would last 15 years; or 20 years. There was talk of the 30th maybe being the swan song.

Nope. At 38 years old, the Roger Maris golf festivities are entering their prime.

Thanks to Sanford Health, the Roger Maris All-Star Week has successfully reinvented itself to something that may never go away. Let’s hope it doesn’t. The event still brings in a few celebrities every year, but that’s not the focus.

Kent Hrbek said that’s OK, too.

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“I understand the longevity of something like that, what you want to do is you want it to end,” Hrbek said. “You want to end your golf tournament, you want to end your fishing tournament because you find a cure for all of this stuff.”

The former Minnesota Twins great once had a golf tournament for ALS that lasted 18 years. His focus now is a fishing tournament in Duluth, Minn., for the same cause that has been going on for 26 years.

The Kolar ALS Fishing Tournament was held earlier this month at Island Lake and has raised almost $4 million for ALS research, the disease that took the life of Hrbek’s father.

“I say this every year at my deals,” Hrbek said. “Let’s find a cure so we don’t have to play golf and we can raise money for something else. These people haven’t quit up here and that’s pretty impressive.”

Not only has the Maris event not quit, it’s stepping it up a few notches. The Roger Maris All-Star Week is a conglomeration of youth clinics and two separate golf tournaments. It brought in television personality Robin Roberts to speak at the Sanford Health gala called “A Celebration of Hope” on Wednesday night.

In the old days, the banquet was more about telling jokes and baseball stories and having a few drinks. In the old days, the focus was how many big dogs in Major League Baseball could the tournament bring in. Sadly, many of Roger’s Yankee teammates have passed on and the tournament looked to be doomed until Sanford came aboard.

Now the focus is the ever-improving Roger Maris Cancer Center. Instead of remaining in Florida and giving up, the family decided to go big in Fargo and beyond.

The legacy in baseball for Roger Maris is the 61 home runs in 1961. His legacy in the Red River Valley will forever be more than a number.

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“He’s from the area and a Midwest boy, so I felt somewhat connected to him with me being from Minnesota,” Hrbek said. "He played before my time and was a great player. The thing I’m finding out now more and more since coming up here is the legacy he’s left. Not only Roger but his family and what they’ve done up here as far as raising money. To me, that is better than 61.”

Hrbek, from Bloomington, Minn., was accompanied by another Minnesota legend in Hall of Fame player Paul Molitor, who went to high school in St. Paul. Molitor was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2004 and believes Maris should also get the same privilege.

Molitor was 5 years old when Maris broke Babe Ruth’s record in 1961.

“Anybody who has had a chance to play, this provides a pedestal to find ways to give back,” Molitor said. “You don’t do it to get the attention but you do it because it’s the right thing to do and we can see the fact it’s lasted 38 years is how special it is to the community.”

Give credit to all the volunteers over the years that kept it going. If not for them, it never would have reached the desk of Sanford Health.

The streak continues.

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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