I'm not going to pretend that I'm some great Minnesota Twin fan (which as a White Sox fan, would be akin to blasphemy), but I did respect Kirby Puckett's talent.
What made it easier, though, was the fact that Kirby was a native Chicagoan, and even though he played for a hated rival, people here still admired him. It's a Chicago, thing, actually. Since we're a 'flyover' city, and generally ignored on the national stage, Chicagoans carry a kind of chip on their shoulder when it comes to fame. We take great pride to see fellow Chi-town natives make it big; it's some sort of validation that we matter.
Vince Vaughn's a Chicagoan; so's Willam Petersen, of CSI fame. And John Malkovich. Ok, so Vaughn was born in Minnesota, Petersen in Ohio, and Malkovich in Massachusetts, but they either achieved their fame here or spent a significant part of their youth here. Gary Sinese was born in suburban Blue Island, the Belushis in Wheaton, Gary Cole in the northern suburbs and recent Academy Award(R)nominee Terrence Howard was born on the South Side.
I could go on with real and pseudo-Chicagoans, but I think you get the point. We take great pride when one of 'us' makes it big, and Kirby Puckett certainly managed to do that. Even with the accusation (later disproven) of sexual harrassment in 2003, Kirby put all Chicagoans in a good light, and reinforced our image as a city of hard-working people.
So it's sad to see such a great player die so young. Like Walter Payton, another talented, personable athelete who left too early, Kirby Puckett had way too much to offer, and too little time in which to offer it. In a time of Marcus Vicks' and Terrell Owens', we need a few more people like Kirby. And hopefully, they'll continue to come out of the greatest city everyone flies over on their way to a coast.