Emotional Joe Mauer bids farewell to Twins: ‘I made the right decision’
There will be more curtain calls for Joe Mauer. The Twins will have days honoring him, will likely retire his No. 7 and build a statue outside the ballpark. He might eventually get a call from the Hall of Fame.
But on Monday, Minnesota’s most famous son faced the first formal gathering at an emotional news conference at Target Field to formalize his retirement.
“I’m 100 percent behind the decision, and look forward to the next chapter in my life,” said Mauer. “I still feel like I could compete at this level ... but I made the right decision.”
He seems likely to eventually play a part with the Twins, but has no immediate plans for his baseball future.
“I definitely want to be connected, but my role is unsure ... hopefully there will be some discussions down the road,” said Mauer, 35. “Helping this organization get better ... I’d definitely be open to that.”
Mauer’s former managers, Paul Molitor and Ron Gardenhire, were in attendance, along with his close friend Justin Morneau, another former MVP.
“I don’t see this as a farewell,” the six-time All-Star and 2009 American League MVP said. “I’m going to raise my kids here. I’m not going anywhere.
“Guys were running around, trying to get things signed, and told them, ‘Hey, I’ll only be a phone call away.’”
Mauer, whose 15-year career was shortened because of concussion issues, started his prepared remarks by thanking his relatives, coaches, doctors, trainers, teammates and friends.
“I’m not going to lie. I’m overcome with emotions right now,” he started.
“Mom and Dad, thank you so much for believing in me. You made it a priority to be there for me my whole career, and that means the world to me.”
“And Maddie — I’m not sure I have the right words to express my love and admiration for you,” he said to his wife, who is expecting their third child this week.
In thanking his Cretin Derham Hall high school coach, he joked, “You wonder why I don’t swing at the first pitch? It’s because of Jim O’Neill.”
Twins owner Jim Pohlad said on the day he signed his eight-year contract, worth $23 million per season, Mauer “told me he’ll always give his best. ... I’ll never forget that. And he delivered.”
“It’s our view, and admittedly we’re biased, that Joe’s body of work should someday make him the fourth person from St. Paul to make the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown,” said Twins President David St. Peter.
Mauer was especially emotional when talking about former general manager Terry Ryan, saying, “Thanks for taking a chance on a kid from St. Paul. That draft was loaded.”
Mauer the first choice in the 2001 draft out of Cretin, where he was also a football and basketball standout.
“When you draft a guy, especially in the first round, you’re looking for talent and character. And he had plenty of both,” Ryan said. “Joe carried himself about as well as any player I ever was around. He had respect of everyone in the game — the opposition, opposing managers, the umpires, teammates, and the total respect of our fan base.
“We were fortunate enough to have the first pick. Catching is the toughest position to fill, and he just happened to be the best player in the country. And he grew up seven miles from the Metrodome! It’s just unbelievable when you think about it.
“Everybody knew he could throw, catch, call a game. It was just a matter what he could do with that bat. And he had a tremendous swing. You watch him take batting practice, he could hit balls a long way. But that was not his game. … Nobody talked about his lack of power when he was winning batting titles.”
Mauer collected 2,123 hits, more than any Twin but Kirby Puckett. His 428 doubles are the most in Twins history.
He batted above .300 eight times during his career, and in 2006 he became the first AL catcher ever to win a batting title, putting up a .347 average.
His .328 average in 2008 earned him another batting title, and his career best .365 average, along with 28 home runs and 76 RBI, made him the fifth Twin ever elected MVP in 2009.
He was also awarded three Gold Gloves as the league’s best defensive catcher, and became a national star featured in advertisements for Head and Shoulders and PS3 video consoles. “Well played, Mauer,” became a viral catchphrase, uttered in a video game commercial in 2010.
“The great thing about being from Minnesota,” Mauer said, “is that I’ll be around to thank everyone in person.”