Late on Saturday afternoon at Target Field, the Minnesota Twins are going to retire the number of their hometown hero, Joe Mauer. #7 was drafted in the 2001 draft, and fortunately enough, the Twins had the first overall pick in the Major League Draft that season. Minnesota had a couple of options presented to them. They could have taken stud pitching prospect, Mark Prior, or they could have taken Minnesota native, Joe Mauer. The Twins made the choice that was fairly obvious and predictable to everyone. It was the right decision.
Joe Mauer made his MLB debut in 2004. What would follow was a very storied career. In the early years of his career, Mauer would quickly become one of the most feared hitters in the league. He would win the American League Batting Title in 2006, 2008, and 2009 with a career batting average of .306. His third hitting crown would help him win the AL MVP Award in 2009. That season he averaged .365, was on base 44% of the time, and had a .587 slugging percentage.
On March 21, 2010, Mauer would sign an eight year, $184 million extension with Minnesota. This basically secured that he would be a member of the Twins for the rest of his career. However, the love for Mauer would eventually turn negative for some fans as he would deal with several injuries that would cause him to make a position change. There was tons of growing pains that came with this move, and a lot of fans had turned on him. Not me, though.
Growing up a Twins fan, Joe Mauer was one of the first players I remember watching. He helped me build the bond that I have with the franchise today. Between him, Torii Hunter, and Justin Morneau, these are the building blocks as to which my fandom was born. Joe Mauer was smartest, most skilled person who was a great role model for everyone. He played the game the right way and he never acted out.
Who remembers the time he caught the foul ball behind the netting near home plate?
Or the time he tricked Brett Gardner into to trying to come home, only to tag him out at the plate?
And I’ll never forget his walk-off home run that set the tone for an amazing 2017 season.
When Joe Mauer walked out of the dugout last fall for the final time wearing his catching gear, I lost it. Tears were running down my face. A player that I had idolized growing up was calling it a career. I was sobbing.
On Saturday night, I fully expect to feel that emotionally vulnerable again. I will be in the building, down the left field foul line, behind the dugout, and I’m ready to see that number seven hung up next to the greats of Kirby Puckett, Harmon Killebrew, and Rod Carew...Now, Joe Mauer.
It’s weird to think that someone that I’ve never physically met in person could have such an impact on my life, but Joe Mauer did. I know he will probably never read this, but in the case that he does, I would like to thank Mr. Mauer. Not only for being a great role model, but for being the face of OUR franchise, for staying home, and for never giving up on our city. As they say from the MLB The Show commercials from 2011 when Joe Mauer was on the cover of the video game, “Well played, Mauer.”