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01/19/11 12:51 AM EST

Twins moved by Caravan visit to hospital

BISMARCK, N.D. -- Every year, the Twins Caravan visits close to 100 destinations as many of the Twins players, coaches and front-office staff tour Twins Territory to promote the upcoming baseball season. But while all of the visits with Twins fans are special for those who make these treks, there are certain stops that seem to take on a little extra meaning, like one that was made during Day 2 of the western leg of the Caravan.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, hitting coach Joe Vavra, pitcher Jeff Manship and catcher Drew Butera, along with Twins radio announcer Kris Atteberry, kicked off the day Tuesday with a morning stop at the Medcenter One Children's Hospital in Bismarck. During the stop, they visited with children battling various ailments in order to try to bring some smiles to their faces.

"That was easily my most favorite event that we've done so far," said Manship. "It was the most gratifying, for sure. Just being able to go in and brighten up those kids' days was something that was special."

It was a break from the typical baseball talk that takes place at many of the events along the Caravan. Still, there were certainly plenty of avid fans among the children that the Twins got a chance to see, as some of the kids donned Twins hats while they posed for pictures and received autographs from the people they often cheer for on the baseball field.

For the Twins, it was a chance to be a kid again as they talked about everything from one little boy's favorite Transformer character to what color of cotton candy a little girl liked best. While mascot T.C. Bear helped deliver many smiles to the younger crowd, the Twins got a reminder of just how difficult things can be at times, like they are for the families of the children who are at the hospital.

"It's always special for us to be able to go to a hospital and visit young kids that are sick," said Butera. "It puts things in perspective how lucky we are to be healthy, No. 1, and for us, it's all about giving back and paying it forward. The fact that we can bring them some joy means a lot to us."

Target Field to get statue honoring Oliva

FARGO, N.D. -- Twins president Dave St. Peter joined the Caravan on Tuesday night for the leg's night stop at the Hub in Fargo and he provided updates as to what's going on at Target Field for the 2011 season.

St. Peter's big announcement to the packed crowd was that the Twins will be unveiling a Tony Oliva statue outside Gate 6 on Opening Day. Oliva's statue will join the three statues that are all currently in place at Target Field -- Hall of Famers Harmon Killebrew, Kirby Puckett and Rod Carew.

"Tony we all know is a player with a Hall of Fame resume and we're keeping our fingers crossed for the Veterans Committee voting that takes place next December," St. Peter said. "But he's also probably been as good an ambassador as we've had in our franchise. So we as an organization frankly felt really good about the fact that Tony Oliva should be the next statue. Over time there will be additional legend player statues, but we are really proud of the fact that there will be a Tony Oliva statue on or around Opening Day next year."

Killebrew touched by outpouring of support

FARGO, N.D. -- Throughout the week, Twins fans have not only shared their questions for the Twins about the upcoming season but they have also inquired on the health status of Hall of Famer and Twins legend Harmon Killebrew.

During a lunch stop at Shady's Restaurant and Lounge in Jamestown, N.D., a fan in the audience asked Twins manager Ron Gardenhire to pass along the support of the fans to Killebrew as he is currently battling esophageal cancer.

Twins president Dave St. Peter said Tuesday night that Killebrew and his wife, Nita, have been overwhelmed by the amount of support that they've received throughout baseball and particularly from people throughout Twins Territory during what the slugger has called "the most difficult battle of my life."

"They are very touched by all of it," St. Peter said. "Harmon continues to be very upbeat, very determined, and focused on the treatment plan as prescribed by his doctors. He's very focused on getting to Spring Training in Fort Myers, Fla. We're all very optimistic and hopeful that good news is ahead on Hamon's health front."

Killebrew is currently being treated by doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., and has asked for privacy while he receives treatment for the cancer. But for fans interested in sharing their support for Killebrew, they can do so by posting on the Get Well, Harmon blog and all of the messages will be passed along to him.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Kelly's Corner, and follow her on Twitter @kellythesier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.