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By Staff | Jan 14, 2011

In May of 2008, my wife and I went to a Minneapolis suburb to be part of an annual event – The Twin Cities Walk for Parkinson’s disease.

Its purpose is to raise money and awareness to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease.

We do this each year because my wife’s sister and father both have Parkinson’s disease. Families are encouraged to attend as a means of support for those afflicted with the disease.

It is a morning-long event and the final occurrence is an award ceremony to recognize the family with the most members attending, who traveled the farthest, along with the youngest and oldest people there.

In attendance is Bert Blyleven, the pitcher of Minnesota Twins fame and now announcer for the Twins games. Fans in the stands compete for Blyleven’s attention during the game with posters saying, “Circle me, Bert.” A lucky fan is circled by Bert with the pen he uses during the game to show plays.

Blyleven is a supporter of Parkinson’s research as his father had Parkinson’s disease. He attends the Twin Cities walk and is part of the closing ceremonies.

On the day we were there in 2008, Blyleven, at the end of the program, said he had autographed his last Circle Me Bert t-shirt and was going to auction it off with the money going to research.

The bidding started and my wife’s family noticed I was an active bidder on the t-shirt.

I am sure they were wondering what was going on because I am not a sports fan at all.

My wife’s family are sports nuts and baseball and the Minnesota Twins in particular are followed game by game. At a family gathering, they will have a television on The Big Game, watching it as they eat and visit.

During those times, I am usually in a chair a short distance away taking a nap.

They were wondering what I was going to do with an autographed Bert Blyleven t-shirt. I knew exactly what I was going to do with that shirt.

The bidding continued and I had every other bid. I did not know who was bidding against me and who ever it was, figured out when the shirt was at $125, I wanted it more than anyone else did.

I walked to the stage where Bert Blyleven handed me the shirt and on the way back I walked past my father in law, one of the greatest baseball fans you will ever meet, and placed the shirt in his lap.

With the ceremonies ended, people were standing and walking away. Bert Blyleven looked my way as if he wanted my attention. I went to where he was standing and asked if we could get a picture of him with my father in law and the t-shirt.

Blyleven agreed and went over to where my father in law was sitting. The shirt was spread across my father in law’s lap. Blyleven put his arm across my father in law’s shoulders. I had a camera in my pocket and got a great photo.

You might think the story ends there, but there is more. My brother in law suggested sending a copy of the picture that I had just taken to Bert Blyleven for an autograph.

A few days later, I mailed two 8-by-10 pictures of Bert Blyleven and my father-in-law to the Metrodome in Minneapolis in an envelope addressed to Blyleven.

I wrote a letter asking Blyleven to keep one photo to do with as he pleased. I asked him to autograph the other photo to my father in law and send it to his home address I put in the letter.

A few weeks later, my mother-in-law called us saying they had received an envelope from the Metrodome. It had an autographed photo in it of my father in law with Bert Blyleven.

Blyleven wrote, “Hey Gerald, it was great seeing you at the Parkinson’s walk. All my best and you are hereby circled. Bert Blyleven. Go Twins.”

My father in law and mother in law were so pleased they went right to Target and got a frame for the picture. It hangs next to the front door of their apartment.

This past week Bert Blyleven was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He has been in my hall of fame since 2008.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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