MINNEAPOLIS - You'd be hard-pressed to find an elite professional athlete that is more uniquely Minnesotan than Joe Mauer.
Born to a working class family in St. Paul, Joe excelled at just about everything he did but didn't act like it. A football star at Cretin Derham Hall, he was recruited to play quarterback at college football powerhouse Florida State. Mauer was also a top-level basketball player in his own right, but baseball was game he loved, and chose as his profession. Modest and soft-spoken, his low-key manner was in stark contrast to the plethora of professional athletes who were loud, boastful, always making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
On Monday the hometown-boy-done-good sat before a packed room at Target Field, one day after announcing his retirement in a full-page ad placed in the Star Tribune, his voice breaking and his eyes filled with tears, Joe ticked off a long list of family members, managers, teammates and Twins officials who played a role in his ascension to the top of his sport. His emotions were in sharp contrast to the steady ballplayer who rarely got rattled or displayed emotion during a decade-and-a-half of playing.
"I'm not gonna lie you can see I'm pretty overwhelmed with emotion right now," Mauer confessed, grabbing a box of tissues from Twins Communications Director Dustin Morse. "Seeing everyone in this room today,, it mean so much to have y ou all here. And to be honest, I probably wouldn't be sitting up here without the support and guidance given to me by so many of you along the way."
"Mom and Dad... thank you so much for always believing in me, for sitting at my countless games and tournaments, and for being the pillar of support back then and always," he continued, stopping for long pauses as he composed himself. You both made it a priority to be there for me throughout my career, and it means the world to me."
When asked about his career, Mauer said he was proudest of the relationships he developed over the span of his career, and the list of people who showed up for his big day was a testament to that. Former and current Twins managers Tom Kelly, Ron Gardenhire, Paul Molitor and Rocco Baldelli: Teamates like Justin Morneau, Glenn Perkins, Cory Koskie: and coaches and teammates dating all the way back to Cretin-Derham Hall and the old neighborhood in St, Paul. The gratitude was clear in his voice, and the words he chose.
Mauer spent 18 years in the Twins organization, 15 with the big club after making his major league debut with the Twins in 2004. He immediately became known for his sweet swing and ability to hit for average, earning six All-Star appearances, five Silver Sluggers and three Golden Gloves. He finished with a career .306 batting average. In 2009 he was named Major League Baseball's MVP.
When asked how he wanted to be remembered, Mauer didn't even refer to his eye-popping stats, saying simply "A great teammate, a great person and a guy who gave it everything he had."
Injuries were the one thing that probably kept Joe Mauer from being an even greater player than he was. Knee and concussion problems forced his transition from the physical grind of catcher to first base following the 2013 season. In fact, Mauer struggled to recover from another concussion during the 2018 season, and pointed to the risks of suffering more significant brain trauma as a reason for stepping away from the game of baseball following the 2018 season.
When asked what comes next, Mauer told reporters that he's still letting the idea of retirement and not playing anymore sink in. While not sharing any specific details he did hint that a future with the Twins organization is likely in his plans, saying he "wasn't going anywhere," and emphasizing that Minnesota will always be home to he and his wife Maddie, their twin girls and a baby who is soon to arrive.
"I got a lot of time on my hands now," he laughed. "I haven't gotten that far (the what comes next question) yet, but I don't see this as a farewell. I'm gonna raise my kids here, my family's here, born and raised. I was a Twins fan before I was a Twin, and I'll be a Twins fan after I'm done as a player. I don't plan on going anywhere."