In the 9th inning of the last Twins game this season, Joe Mauer surprised the crowd, coming out onto the field in his old catcher’s gear. He caught one pitch (which the opposing White Sox batter was specifically instructed not to swing at), was removed from the game, waving to his hometown fans in the crowd, everyone of them on their feet. Though it sure seemed like his last hurrah, Joe didn’t announce anything official about his career at the time.
On Friday, Joe Mauer officially announced his retirement from Major League Baseball.
Joseph Patrick Mauer played 15 years in the big leagues, and he played all of them for his hometown Minnesota Twins. As we all know, Joe was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, April 19th, 1983, as the youngest of three boys (Jake and Billy, who both also played and managed in the Twins organization). The Twins selected Joe as the first overall pick in the 2001 MLB, much to the chagrin of college pitching phenom Mark Prior. I’m pretty sure the Twins don’t regret their decision at this point.
Over his 15 year career, Joe won three batting titles — the only catcher to do so in MLB history — and one AL MVP award. A regular at the All-Star Game (he went six times), Joe also won three Gold Gloves, five Silver Slugger awards, and led the league in on-base percentage twice.
A series of concussions forced Joe to move to first base full-time in 2014, where he excelled defensively (and was snubbed for a Gold Glove in 2017). A number of leg aliments combined with the concussions slowed down Mauer’s production at the plate considerably in the later years of his career, though he was still a well-respected and above-average player.
It was rather troubling earlier this year when the Twins were forced to place Mauer on the DL because of the re-occurrence of concussion symptoms. At the time, I wrote about what it might mean for Mauer’s future. Unfortunately, it appears I wasn’t far off.
Mauer wrote a letter to fans posted on the Official Twins Website. You can read it in full here. What Mauer said, in part, however, was this:
“After much consideration I have decided to retire from playing baseball. ...
“The decision came down to my health and my family. The risk of concussion is always there, and I was reminded of that this season after missing over 30 games as a result of diving for a foul ball. That’s all it took this time around and it was all needed to bring me back to the struggles I faced in 2013. ... I am soon to be the father of three and I find myself thinking about my future health and its impact on my family more than I had years ago. People always told me how much things change when you become a parent, and they were right.”
Mauer goes on to talk about his final game and how he came to his decision, and I can’t transcribe it now because man it’s getting dusty in here. Just go read it yourself. Seriously.
Joe Mauer will retire with the second most hits in Twins history, and reached base more than any other player in the team’s history. As the face of the franchise for over a decade, Joe did us all proud.
Just in case you aren’t crying all ready, watch this commercial. It’s a montage of Minnesotan children playing baseball, and at the very end there is a particular old video of one very special little boy, who taught us sometimes dreams do come true:
Congratulations, Joe. Thank you for just being you.