Mauer gets emotional in his goodbye with Twins royalty looking on

MINNEAPOLIS -- It took Joe Mauer 18 years to draw the curtain on his professional baseball career but only seconds for the waterworks to spring Monday during his emotional farewell to the Minnesota Twins and the game he loved playing.

An emotional Joe Mauer chokes up as he held a press conference at Target Field in Minneapolis to announce his retirement from the Minnesota Twins, Monday, Nov. 12.. At right is Twins President Dave St. Peter. (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)

MINNEAPOLIS -- It took Joe Mauer 18 years to draw the curtain on his professional baseball career but only seconds for the waterworks to spring Monday during his emotional farewell to the Minnesota Twins and the game he loved playing.

Maddie saw it coming, however. Mauer’s wife was more nervous about how the St. Paul kid who played 15 seasons for his hometown team would stay composed walking away with every seminal person in his life staring him down on the dais.

“There was so much emotion and history,” Maddie Mauer said. “I think I slept less than he did because I felt that for him. I knew he was going to get through it. He means what he says when he says these people are like family.”

Mauer’s vanilla affability belied a fierce competitor who respected baseball’s nuances, who hated losing and maintained a stiff upper lip against critics who bemoaned his waning production after concussions ended his hall of fame-ready catching career in 2013.

Rarely did Mauer show emotion on the field or off it. But the moment had been building momentum since his ceremonial send-off in catcher’s gear during the Twins’ Sept. 30 season finale at Target Field.


Monday, he fought back tears and paused several times to compose himself as he glanced at index cards to recite the names on his personal murderer’s row, from his grandparents, parents and two older brothers to former Twins teammates, managers, executives and staff who shepherded his career in Minnesota from 2004-18.

The most sincere tears were saved for Maddie.

“I’m not sure I have the right words to express my gratitude, my admiration or my love for you,” he said. “You’ve been my biggest supporter, biggest fan, and my rock. You made everything happen at home so I could go out there and play a game that I love. I know it wasn’t easy on you three when I’d leave. But you sure made it look like it.”

Maddie is due with Mauer child No. 3 on Nov. 22 but plans to be induced no later than Wednesday. Whether a brother or sister will join twins Maren and Emily remains a mystery.

“That was Joe’s big thing,” she said. “He wanted that surprise element again.”

Mauer’s news conference felt like a giant family reunion, with distant cousins and friends of the family invited to the party. Twins royalty was everywhere.

There were former teammates Corey Koskie, Justin Morneau and Glen Perkins; former Twins managers Tom Kelly, Ron Gardenhire and Paul Molitor; Wild winger and close friend Zach Parise; recently inducted hall of famer Jack Morris. along with team ambassadors Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek and Tim Laudner.

Twins President Dave St. Peter could barely keep it together talking about Mauer’s body of work as a player and generous philanthropist. His popular Mauer and Friends Kid Classic allows parents and children with serious medical issues to play games on the outfield grass at Target Field. It raised $1 million this year for research and capital projects.


“Few, if any, players in our game had more respect on the diamond than Joe Mauer,” St. Peter said.

Twins owner Jim Pohlad recalled greeting Mauer at the Twins’ spring training complex in Fort Myers, Fla., in March 2010, after they had brokered the record eight-year, $184 million contract that ultimately kept Mauer in Minnesota for his entire career.

“He shook my hand and told me he would always give us his best; I have never forgotten it,” Pohlad said. “There have been some down times but mostly great times. I never doubted what he said to me, and I always believed he delivered on that.”

Mauer’s legacy is well-chronicled, and it figures to take broader shape as the great debate about his Hall of Fame bona fides intensifies when he becomes eligible for Cooperstown in 2023.

Baseball’s No. 1 overall draft choice in 2001 left a football scholarship to Florida State on the table to sign with the Twins. He made his major league debut in 2004, became a six-time all-star, was named 2009 American League most valuable player and finished with a .306 career batting average, plus an OPS of .827.

The sweet-swinging left hander is the only American League catcher to win a batting title, let alone three.

“If you’re the first to do anything in this game with the rich history this game has, it’s pretty special in itself,” he said.

Mauer credited his paternal grandfather, Jake, for that.


“Thanks for keeping me in that left-handed batter’s box,” he said.

He was on a hall of fame trajectory as a catcher before concussions forced him to shelve his mask, shin guards and chest protector for a first-baseman’s glove, a position that saved his career but could not salvage several injury-marred and unproductive seasons that followed.

Molitor, his last big-league manager, a fellow Cretin-Derham Hall alumnus and a 2001 Hall of Fame inductee, acknowledged Mauer’s numbers will sour him in the eyes of many voters. But, Molitor said, Mauer’s career should be judged more generally.

“There’s the impact of that player’s particular generation of players, where they fit it. I think that side of the debate will favor him more than the numbers,” Molitor said. “They might be career-short, but there have been exceptions for people that had maybe less career numbers but have been hall of famers, (Kirby) Puckett being one of those people.”

Mauer could become the fourth player from St. Paul to be enshrined.

“The debate will be ongoing for the next handful of years, but it would be nice to add a fourth to the east side of the river,” Molitor said.

Mauer said the concussion he suffered in May diving for a ground ball was a blunt reminder that his career could end at any moment. He was able to return following a three-week absence but admitted Monday that was when he seriously started considering retirement.

“It definitely opened my eyes a little bit,” he said. “Brought me back to 2013 and a lot of the struggles I had faced back then. Not knowing when you try to ride a bike that everything is going to be OK. That’s what’s so difficult with concussions. It’s different for everyone. I feel 100 percent behind my decision. I know the right decision for me and I made it.”

Meanwhile, Mauer is excited to be a stay-at-home dad while discussing a possible future in the Twins organization, which he is no hurry to try.

Maddie promised her honey-do list will not be too long.

“This will be new for both of us,” she said. “He really likes the dad role. He’s ready to do it, the field trips. He made some apple pies with the girls at school last week. He missed being home with the kids. I think he’s ready for the next chapter.”

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