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Joe Mauer makes an emotional appearance as Twins catcher in final game of season

September 30, 2018

Joe Mauer lined a vintage opposite-field double into the left-center field Sunday, then donned the catchers gear that made him a legend and crouched behind the plate. Matt Belisle threw one pitch, Mauer caught it, jogged to the mound and hugged his pitcher, then walked to the dugout and into Minnesota Twins history.

Minnesota finished off a season-ending sweep of the White Sox with a 5-4 victory on Sunday, to finish with a 78-84 record, but few will remember Jake Caves and Max Keplers home runs, or Trevor May earning a save in the season finale. But who among the 30,144 at Target Field will ever forget the series of standing ovations or the emotion of what certainly felt like the final day that Joe Mauer will play Major League Baseball for his hometown team?

From the moment that his 5-year-old daughters, Maren and Emily, stood with him at first base for the national anthem, to the final curtain call while wearing a chest protector and carrying a catchers mask once more, a disappointing 2018 season for the Twins saved its best memories for the finish.

Mauer, appearing in his 1,858th game as a Twin, received a long ovation as he walked to the plate in the first inning. He grounded out to second base in the first, to shortstop in the third, and flew out in the fifth innings. But he summoned the magic of three batting titles for his final at-bat.

There were nothing but mid-90s fastballs, but Mauer has grown used to that in the latter stages of his career. So when he came to bat in the seventh inning Sunday, he exercised the patience that hes been known for since he was a 20-year-old rookie, 15 seasons ago.

He watched a 95-mph pitch from Juan Minaya sail wide of the plate. He fouled off one that Minaya tried to sneak inside, then waited some more. Finally, on 3-and-2, Minaya tried to hit the outside corner with one more fastball. Mauer whipped his bat at it and drove it, at more than 102 mph, into left-center field, a vintage Joe Mauer line drive. He stretched the hit to a double, sliding into the bag a split second before the throw, then waved his helmet to the roaring fans.

But the Twins had one more thrill in store for their fans, and for their most senior veteran. The team didnt take the field once the eighth inning ended, until finally Mauer emerged from the dugout wearing the catchers gear that he hadnt put on since Aug. 19, 2013, the day one final concussion ended his catching career.

The ovation lasted for nearly five minutes, with Mauer wiping away tears and pointing to his heart as the crowd roared. Finally, the rest of the Twins took the field, and Mauer crouched behind the plate. After Belisle threw a ball outside, Mauer went to the mound and bearhugged Belisle as Chris Gimenez took his spot at the plate. Mauer hugged his manager, Paul Molitor, coaches and teammates as he left the field.

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