T.C. Bear has been pumping up fans at Twins games since 2000. (AP)

MINNEAPOLIS -- With a sizable pregame crowd in attendance, the Twins unveiled a brand new statue of mascot T.C. Bear at the Target Field plaza outside of Gate 29 on Sunday morning.

Joined by president Dave St. Peter, owner Jim Pohlad, Hall of Famers Kent Hrbek and Tony Oliva, manager Ron Gardenhire and several area mascots, emcee Jim Cunningham began the event with homage to T.C.

"His talents at the plate -- both home and dinner -- are without question," Cunningham said. "But what really set him apart to the Twins' scouts was his outgoing personality and his ability to spread the joy of the game to fans of all ages."

The Twins introduced the 6-foot-4 mascot on April 3, 2000.

T.C. Bear's statue stands at least a foot shorter, and joins a group of seven other statues placed around Target Field. It was designed and created by TivoliToo Inc., a local company that also manufactured the statue of the giant baseball glove near Gate 34.

During the Sunday morning event -- which took place before Minnesota's game against the Houston Astros -- three local grade school students read their winning entries from the recent "Why I Love T.C." contest (one reason: "I used to be afraid of him when I was a little kid, but now I can't wait to see him at games"), and Hrbek also waxed poetic.

"This is a great day," Hrbek said. "My biggest memory of T.C. is seeing him shake hands and take pictures with the kids, our future fans and ballplayers, and putting a smile on their face.

"When T.C. first came on, I said, 'What's the heck's the deal with a bear and the Twins?' But you wanna know something? It's the best thing the Twins have ever done."