Charity derby reunites Mauer, former Twins

June 16th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- Even with the team playing on the road half a country away in Seattle, more than 3,000 fans still piled into Target Field on a sunny Tuesday afternoon to watch Twins players hit balls out of the park.

Former Twins players, that is -- and the balls were softballs. And instead of the results counting toward the standings, it was all in the name of supporting Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare.

Trevor Plouffe emerged victorious in the first Mauer and Friends Kids Classic Home Run Challenge at Target Field, bashing softballs into the third deck and clubbing more home runs than host in the finals of a three-round challenge. But the true victor was Gillette Children's, which raised $347,838 towards research and expert care for complex, rare and traumatic conditions in pediatric medicine.

"It was a great day for Gillette Children’s and spreading the word about Gillette," Mauer said. "There's been great videos and some of the patients were able to come out today. Hopefully moving into the future, we can get more of the patients out here and enjoy it."

The annual event that began as a pizza party for Mauer and his wife, Maddie, to connect with Gillette patients and families, has since blossomed into this celebrity home run derby starring 13 former Twins players, along with Zach Parise and Mark Parrish of the Minnesota Wild and Chad Greenway of the Minnesota Vikings. The format came at the suggestion of Justin Morneau -- who was eliminated by Plouffe in the semifinals -- and Mauer thinks that it might be a winner.

"I thought it was a tremendous amount of support," Mauer said. "The community, that’s the thing -- in life and as my career is going on, it’s like, 'How can we get better? How can we make things better?' And I think this first go at it was pretty good."

Three thousand fans gathered in the stands to watch a reunion that featured longtime manager Ron Gardenhire and coach Joe Vavra and a huge cast of former players: Brian Dozier, Glen Perkins, Jason Kubel, Joe Nathan, Brian Duensing, Jim Thome, Garrett Jones, Morneau, Darin Mastroianni, Plouffe, Nick Punto (who, of course, slid on the infield dirt as he was announced to the crowd), Corey Koskie and Mauer.

Brace/Minnesota Twins

In somewhat of an upset, Jones and Punto (who had reportedly been leading the friendly trash talk heading into the event) snatched two of the top three seeds during the preliminary rounds, joining Plouffe, Kubel, Mauer, Morneau, Nathan and Dozier in the championship bracket. Nowhere to be found? Hall of Famer Jim Thome, who knocked one homer in the two preliminary rounds.

"I surprised myself," Jones said.

"If you watch [Punto] hit a golf ball, you’re not surprised at what happened on the field today," Mauer said. "He’s great, fabulous. And I’m sure guys are evaluating their performance and probably working towards next time."

The stage was set for a possible Mauer-Morneau final round when the pair advanced to the semifinals alongside Jones and Plouffe, but there was simply no getting in the way of Plouffe, who routinely pelted the third deck with softballs on his 35th birthday.

"That's all the dad workouts I do on my driveway in the morning," Plouffe said. "It finally paid off for something. ... I knew it was going to be hard. We played golf yesterday, too, so a lot of rotational activity for all of us old guys. So a lot of chiropractors will be called up tomorrow."

Though Plouffe professed afterward that he felt "silly" breaking down his finals-winning performance, the event as a whole was plenty meaningful for all the help to Gillette and all that camaraderie to be enjoyed in a flashback to the past -- for fans and players alike.

"That's what's great about the Twins community," Plouffe said. "All of the guys that come back and still support the organization, still support each other, and obviously, with Joe doing stuff with the Children's Hospital, any time he asks me to do something, I'm going to come do it. It's a brotherhood, and one of the better ones in the big leagues, that's for sure."

Brace/Minnesota Twins