I used to kinda hate Joe Mauer.
The year is 2009; Joe Mauer is in the midst of his historic MVP campaign and I, a freshman in high school, had no idea what any of that meant. In my head, Joe Mauer was just Sporty McPopularGuy.
I didn't really follow sports until 2007 (Vikings w/ Adrian Peterson, but that's another story), and baseball was definitely not an interest of mine at the time. The major reason was probably that I didn't play any sports growing up, so the interest was never there as a kid. Anyway, Joe Mauer was the talk of the town, and that kinda annoyed me at the time.
Fast forward to the 2009 playoffs, and my mom really wants me to watch the Twins. I eventually give in and decide to watch the series. They’re facing off against the Yankees in the ALDS. I didn’t know about their struggles with the Yankees at the time, but I definitely would find out.
In Game 1, Brian Duensing gets slammed and the Twins fall 7-2. In Game 2, they enter the bottom of the 9th with a 3-1 lead (notching 2 runs against future Twin Phil Hughes), but A-Rod crushes a 2 run homer to tie it at 3. Mauer leads off the next inning against lefty Damaso Marte and well... this happens:
That is a double, by the way. Phil Cuzzi is staring right at the foul line 10 feet away from where it hits. How does he not see that this is a fair ball? I don’t know; all I can say is that it was awful and it cost the Twins a go-ahead run.
I don’t want this to be about hating on Mr. Cuzzi because I’m not. He messed up, he knows it, and I’ve moved on. In some respects I should thank him for being a part of the play made me start feeling passion for a sport I barely knew at the time.
Mauer ends up hitting a single instead, followed by two more singles, loading the bases for Delmon Young. He lines out to 1B, Carlos Gomez grounds into a forceout at home, and Brendan Harris flies out to end the threat. In proper Twins fashion Mark Texeira lights up Jose Mijares for the walk-off HR, the Twins go down 0-2, and of course, lose game 3. After this, I was pretty much hooked on baseball (that ALDS was a gateway drug,). I started learning about the Twins, just how good Joe Mauer was, and the reason everyone was talking about him in school.
It was definitely worth talking about. My college math counts 9 different catchers who won an MVP award before Joe did in 2009. Buster Posey won one in 2012, the first NL catcher to win it since Johnny Bench in 1971. My 15-year-old self had no idea how rare a catcher being this good was.
Quite a bit has happened in the 7 years since then. In 2010 I started watching more regularly, and we added FSN to our TV package. After the 2011 season, I joined Twinkie Town, you may have heard of it. A few years later I started writing about the Twins, if only in a relatively small way. If you had told me in 2009 that I’d be writing about the Twins I’d probably think you were crazy.
Joe Mauer is an overpaid veteran, to some, but to me, he’s one of the reasons I love baseball.