Mauer's 'unbelievable ride' culminates with Twins HOF induction

August 6th, 2023

MINNEAPOLIS -- framed his speech as a message to his twin daughters, Emily and Maren. But that message found its broader home with the enormous crowd in attendance at Target Field, many of whom were kids just like the Mauer girls -- who were clad in matching blue-green dresses -- when Mauer made his mark on his home community.

As Mauer officially became the 38th member of the Twins Hall of Fame in a pregame ceremony before Saturday’s game against the D-backs, he stood in front of those fans, once again, as a reminder of how a kid from St. Paul just like them blossomed into an icon for the region, one of the greatest ballplayers to put on the uniform for their hometown team, someone looked up to by legions of children and adults alike.

“Growing up in the backyard of Minnesota Twins territory here, it’s just been an unbelievable ride, really,” Mauer said. “Sometimes, retiring, you reflect on it. It’s like, ‘Did that really just happen?’ It goes by so fast. But I enjoyed every minute of it and always knew the opportunity I had and always wanted to maximize it. Fifteen years goes pretty fast.”

The accolades have been stated, over and over again, through the years about how Mauer played all 15 of those seasons for his hometown Twins after being selected with the No. 1 overall pick in 2001, about how he became the only catcher in American League history to win even one batting title, let alone three. He was the 2009 AL MVP, a six-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glover and a five-time Silver Slugger Award winner.

And in that time, he was a ubiquitous figure around Twins Territory, as it was nearly impossible to miss the television commercials featuring him -- and impossible not to notice his deep involvement in the community with his commitment to local children’s healthcare.

“The individuals in these blue jackets represent what it means to be a Minnesota Twin,” Mauer said in his speech. “They are leaders and role models, people Twins fans would be proud of. They were skilled in their craft, and also understood the importance of being a role model and the importance of how they conducted themselves away from the stadium.”

Clearly, this day was always going to be a given for Mauer, who retired as one of the unquestioned greats in franchise history. The team’s Hall of Fame induction always seemed like a formality for the man who had his number retired by the club the year after he stepped away from the game.

The baseball journey that started in his St. Paul backyard and wound through the Metrodome and Target Field into the Twins Hall of Fame has continued in a new capacity, as a coach to Emily’s and Maren’s youth softball team.

For all the accolades and triumphs that have come along the way, there’s still one mountain left to climb, one challenge yet to be conquered: the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Mauer will join the ballot for the first time this winter, with his candidacy posing an interesting case for an electorate that skews younger by the year. Though he might not have amassed the counting stats of many other Hall of Famers and moved off catcher to first base for the final five seasons of his career due to concussions, his five-year peak at catcher was unlike any the sport has ever seen.

He hasn’t thought about that a lot yet, but he knew the questions would soon arise.

“For me, I'm just humbled and honored to be in this position, to celebrate the Twins Hall of Fame, which means a great deal to me,” Mauer said. “That, Cooperstown, that's out of my hands. Obviously, it would be an unbelievable call to receive someday, and I hope I do.”

He’d love to get the 270 people who turned up at Target Field for him together again for something like that. But this weekend, he was more grateful to focus on the players, friends and coaches from all those years -- many of whom surprised him with their presence given their relatively short-lived stints together -- as they all, once again, celebrated what Mauer meant to this community and what they all meant to each other.

"It's funny, every time something like this happens, we always end up in the clubhouse,” Mauer said. “It's just hanging out. It doesn't matter what we're doing. It's just laughing, joking, telling stories.”