Twins three-time batting champ Joe Mauer celebrates his first Father's Day as a dad this June. Here's an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at Mauer at home with his wife and twin daughters during a photo shoot for the Official All-Star Game Program. To order a program, look for it in the coming weeks on MLB.com/Shop. Also watch for the first-ever digital edition, found only through MLB At the Ballpark and At Bat apps.
It's been a year of firsts for Joe Mauer. He switched from playing behind the plate to first base, he's the official spokesperson for this year's All-Star Game and he's about to complete his first year of fatherhood.
While all of those landmark events shook things up a bit, the rest of Mauer's life remains as firmly entrenched in its roots as possible. He grew up in St. Paul, Minn., just across the Mississippi River from Minneapolis, and became a three-sport superstar in high school. He first met his future wife, Maddie, when they were around 8 years old, got to know her better in high school, became close friends after graduation and then finally began dating her years later.
"I love it because who doesn't want to marry their best friend?" Maddie asks.
Mauer became a father last July when Maddie gave birth -- fittingly -- to twins, and the baby girls, Emily and Maren, have rocked his world ever since.
"He's a great dad," Maddie says through proud tears. "The minute we found out I was pregnant, he never missed a beat. We scheduled all of my doctor's appointments before his games. He didn't miss much, and if he did, it was hard."
Having had the opportunity to interview Mauer in the past, I know he's one of the all-around nicest guys in professional sports, but even that reputation couldn't have led one to expect the open access into his life he provided our crew for this interview. First, it was exceptional for the Twins' unbelievable public relations department, led by Dustin Morse, to even ask the Mauer family if we could come to their home and photograph them with their twin girls, but the couple agreed instantly.
We rolled up to their house in suburban St. Paul expecting to get in and out of their hair as quickly as possible. But from the moment we arrived to see Mauer's mother-in-law, Ginny, and sister-in-law, Emily, helping Maddie get ready for the photo shoot and, more importantly, helping get the girls ready (Ginny let us know that the girls, and thus both parents, had barely slept the night before, leading Morse to joke that Emily and Maren were nervous about their first photo shoot), the Mauers created the most welcome environment imaginable.
As the rooms were set and the babies began their wardrobe changes, Mauer sat down with us to discuss the Twin Cities' upcoming All-Star Game and the new challenges and opportunities afforded to him by his daughters.
How does it feel to play for the team you grew up watching?
Sometimes I sit back and think of how lucky I am. I grew up 15 minutes from the Metrodome and shared a dream with a lot of kids in this area to play for the Twins, and I'm able to live it. The chances of that happening are slim, and I'm definitely thankful for the opportunity. My grandparents have missed maybe five or six home games in 11 years.
What does it mean to the city and to the Twins to host the All-Star Game this year?
There's a lot of excitement. Target Field is one of the best facilities in the game, and this is our chance to show that off. We have some great fans up here.
What's it been like being this year's All-Star Ambassador?
It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I've been extra busy this summer, but I'm definitely excited for the game to be here. Minnesota will put on a great show.
What do you remember about your first All-Star Game in Pittsburgh in 2006?
The biggest thing was walking through the clubhouse and being there with that amount of talent -- guys like Jim Thome, who had been around for a while and played the game the right way. It was pretty special to have my locker next to him and Ichiro Suzuki.
You got to participate in the 2009 Home Run Derby in St. Louis, where you tied Albert Pujols in the first round. Do you ever wish you could be a home run king instead of a three-time batting champ?
It was a little different -- it's not usually what I'm known for, but I had a lot of fun. I had my high school baseball coach, Jim O'Neill, throw to me in that Home Run Derby, so it was very special.
Knowing Target Field the way you do, do you want to put any predictions on this year's Home Run Derby?
A right-handed pull guy. Right off the top of my head, Jose Bautista would do really well.
Do you and Maddie enjoy a lot of local outdoor activities?
Yeah, we really enjoy being outside, walking around the lakes with the girls and going up to our cabin. Minnesota's a beautiful state.
Which outdoors passion are you most looking forward to sharing with Emily and Maren when they get older?
Maddie is an ex-swimmer, and we've already enjoyed bringing the girls into the water. I'd love to try and take them fishing and see if they like that.
I hear you like to hunt as well.
When my two older brothers and I are able to get up to our cabin and spend some time with Dad, we always go out pheasant hunting.
Dustin says a restaurant called The Nook is your spot. Tell me about it.
Maddie and I love The Nook. It's right across the street from where we went to high school, and it's one of our favorite St. Paul places. The burgers are amazing.
What's your favorite burger there?
They have the Juicy Nookie -- they inject cheese into the burger. But I usually go with a bacon cheeseburger called the Lodge Burger.
Do you ever eat the one named after you -- the Joe Mauer Hit a Double Burger?
That one's good, but I actually like the Lodge Burger best.
What was it like to come to the conclusion that you were going to shift to first base this year?
It was tough. I was trying to find the doctor that would tell me it's OK to continue catching just because of how much I love it, and how much work I put into it.
How does being a dad and husband keep disappointments like this in perspective?
I'm definitely a husband and a father first, and even though baseball came first, I'm going to be a husband and a father a lot longer than a player. You put so much time and work into your profession, but sometimes you need to step back and look at what's really important. I'm thankful I have (Twins general manager) Terry Ryan and my wife and the people that are close to me helping me.
Was the foul tip from Ike Davis last year basically the concussion that you think changed everything?
I've probably had a lot of concussions that went undiagnosed. In that particular game, there were two pretty good shots close together, one off Ike Davis, but I didn't really feel any symptoms until the next day. All the doctors that I talked to were more concerned about how much time it took me to recover from it, because they said that if I were to experience another one, it would be even longer. It took me a good four months to get over that one. One of my good friends, Justin Morneau, experienced the same thing a couple years earlier, so to have him in my corner helped.
What's been the hardest part about being a full-time first baseman so far?
There's a lot more to the position than what most people think. Coming down to Spring Training this year, I just wanted to dive in and learn as much as I could. Just to be around (coach Tom Kelly) and learn from him was definitely beneficial for me.
Both of your brothers were once in the Twins' organization. What was that like?
(My oldest brother, Jake, and I) were both drafted in 2001 and actually played a year and a half together in the Minors, so it was a lot of fun. (My middle brother, Billy) was a pitcher. Jake was a utility infielder and I was a catcher, so I caught a lot of games when he was playing short, second or third.
What went on in that household to create three professional ballplayers?
We all just love to compete. It didn't matter what it was -- football, basketball baseball, a game we invented -- we just love to compete.
What made you the person that you are today?
My family, they've always been there for me. They're quick to humble me if my head gets too big. It's a basic concept: Treat people the way you want to be treated. Hard work definitely pays off, and if you want something, go out and work for it. One thing my mom would always say is that you're not going to get things handed to you; you've got to go out there and earn it.
So, you went to the same high school, Cretin-Derham Hall, as Hall of Famer Paul Molitor?
The first time I met Paul, I was a little kid. He was still playing and would come back and talk to our baseball camp. I was probably 8 years old. Now that I'm in this position, I try to get out in the community and give back. At that time, I don't know how much of an impact he thought he was making, but he made a huge impact on me.
Speaking of high school, were you and Maddie just friends then before you started dating?
We actually first met when we were 8 or 9 years old. I played Little League Baseball with her older brother. My best friend, Tony, was one of Maddie's really good friends, too. He introduced us during my freshman year and we were just friends in high school, but he kept us together.
Florida State offered you a scholarship to play football while you were in high school. What led to your decision to stick with baseball?
Playing in the big leagues was a dream of mine ever since I was little.
Before Maddie moved in with you, you were roommates with Morneau. Compare living with the two of them.
(Laughs) Maddie's a lot neater and keeps things cleaner.
Which teammate would be the best to rent out a room in your house?
I think the best roommate would be Josh Willingham. He's respectful, just a good ol' boy.
Talk about that race home from Anaheim the night Maddie went into labor.
Before I left, I was like, "Girls, wait till Dad gets home." We're out in L.A. getting ready for a game when (Twins manager Ron Gardenhire) comes out, and very calmly says, "Joe, I just got a call from your wife. She thinks that her water may have broken." I called Maddie and she was on her way to the hospital. Our traveling secretary, Mike Herman, found a plane, and that flight was probably the longest three and a half hours of my life, not knowing if she had the kids or what was going on. When I landed, my mom said, "She hasn't had them yet, but we gotta go." I got to the hospital, and the girls were born 40 minutes after the wheels touched down.
Even though they're twins, do you notice very different personalities?
We always joke that one of them is Maddie and the other one's me. I'm a very calm, easy-going guy. My wife, she's a social butterfly. I can see that in the girls, too, even this young.
In your first year as a dad, what have you learned most about fatherhood?
The one thing I would say is that you hear people describe how cool it is, but you can't really put it into words. To see a little bit of yourself and your wife in your daughters is really special. It's the coolest thing that I've ever been able to experience.
Mike McCormick is the editorial director for Major League Baseball Properties and is also the father of twin girls.