MINNEAPOLIS -- The last time Joe Mauer took the field, snow was still on the ground and summer vacation seemed a distant dream.
But that lapse in time didn't matter to fans who welcomed the four-time All-Star back to Target Field Friday night.
"Excited to have him back," said Nany Heuer, whose face was painted with a red, white and blue Twins logo.
"You get a 300 hitter back, your three hitter back, playing well... it can only help," said Jed Carlson, a Twins fan.
Mauer last played at Target Field on April 12 before going out on the disabled list with "bilateral leg weakness." Some fans feared critics may boo Mauer, who collects $23 million a year under his new contract.
But when Mauer stepped up to bat, the entire sell-out crowd at Target Field seemed to rise to their feet and applaud him.
"Joe would be back if he could be. He wouldn't be out if he wasn't really hurt," said Phil Flodin, a loyal fan.
At least one fan was thrilled at the timing of Mauer's return. Milo Walters grew up playing catcher, as well. It was his first time watching Mauer play live.
"I just lucked out that it was his first night back," Walters said, adding, "It just makes it special for us."
(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)