MINNEAPOLIS -- Over the course of 18 years, the state of Minnesota watched as Joe Mauer grow from a baby-faced high schooler to a father of three — from a prized draft pick to a potential hall of famer.
Saturday, Mauer’s legacy was forever cemented in Twins history. Standing at home plate at Target Field with his wife and three kids, he watched as his Cretin-Derham Hall High School baseball coach, Jim O’Neill, pulled back the covering up in left field to unveil Mauer’s No. 7.
He became the ninth player to have his number retired by the Twins, joining a club that also includes Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek, Rod Carew, Kirby Puckett, Bert Blyleven, Tom Kelly and Jackie Robinson. The five living members of that group sat in the infield during the ceremony looking on.
“Those men are some of the best to have played this game, and to say it’s an honor to have my number hanging next to theirs would be an understatement,” Mauer told a sold-out crowd at Target Field as part of an emotional speech that he had been practicing for more than a week.
The ceremony began with home videos and words from his parents about a young boy with an incredible natural ability. Video tributes continued throughout the ceremony, including comments from former manager Ron Gardenhire, former general manager Terry Ryan and competitors such as Ichiro Suzuki, Albert Pujols and Buster Posey.
The team brought in a big group of former managers, executives and teammates, including Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, Joe Nathan and Johan Santana. Longtime teammate Justin Morneau gave a speech as part of the ceremony.
“I don’t believe in fate, but if I did, Joe Mauer getting his No. 7 retired by the Minnesota Twins would be just that,” Morneau told the crowd.
Mauer was the No. 1 overall draft pick by the Twins in 2001. In 15 seasons with the Twins, he won three batting titles (2006, 2008 and 2009). He slashed .365/.444/.587, setting career highs in home runs (28), hits (191) and runs batted in (96) in his MVP season in 2009. He was a six-time all-star, three-time Gold Glove winner and five-time Silver Slugger Award winner.
From his debut in 2004 through his retirement in 2018, Mauer was a fan favorite in Minnesota.
“For all that Joe Mauer accomplished on the field, he never lost sight of who he was or where he came from,” Morneau told the crowd. “He just thought of himself as a kid from St. Paul who was honored to play for his hometown Twins.”
Mauer, as he did throughout his career, walked out to T.I.’s “What You Know,” to a standing ovation before delivering his speech. Afterward, the Twins gifted him with the home plate from the final game of his career, a crystal No. 7 and a signed commemorative “What You Know” record before Mauer’s number was unveiled.
To cap off the ceremony, Mauer threw a ball delivered to him by his mother, Teresa, to his father, Jake, crouched behind home plate as his son did so many times in his Twins career.
“I was real nervous. I hadn’t thrown a ball in a while,” Mauer said. “…To have them and my family and friends be a part of this weekend, it really means a lot.”