MINNEAPOLIS -- In typical Joe Mauer fashion, he began his retirement press conference at Target Field by spending more than 10 minutes thanking those who helped him along the way instead of talking about himself and his illustrious 15-year career with the Twins.Mauer, 35, fought back tears as he thanked
MINNEAPOLIS -- In typical Joe Mauer fashion, he began his retirement press conference at Target Field by spending more than 10 minutes thanking those who helped him along the way instead of talking about himself and his illustrious 15-year career with the Twins.
Mauer, 35, fought back tears as he thanked family members, high school coaches, Twins executives, including Terry Ryan, Bill Smith, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, former Twins managers Paul Molitor, Ron Gardenhire and Tom Kelly and teammates such as Justin Morneau, Corey Koskie and Glen Perkins. It was an emotional day for Mauer, but he made sure to point out it's not a goodbye, as the St. Paul native plans to remain in the Twins' organization in some capacity.
"Oftentimes, retirement press conferences can feel like a farewell, but for me this one doesn't," Mauer said. "I may not be suiting up to play any more ballgames, but the beauty of being from Minnesota is that I don't have to say goodbye to all the people today with whom I've become family. You'll always be a part of me, and I can't thank you enough for supporting me. My career wouldn't be what it was without you guys."
Mauer said he wasn't most proud of his unprecedented three batting titles as a catcher, his 2009 American League Most Valuable Player Award, his six All-Star appearances, five Silver Sluggers and three Gold Gloves, but of the relationships he was able to build along the way.
Mauer, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 Draft, lived up to the expectations and more, according to those who knew him best, including owner Jim Pohlad, president Dave St. Peter and Ryan.
St. Peter said four words come to mind when it comes to Mauer -- respect, history, class and family.
"To say the least, the Minnesota Twins have been incredibly blessed to have Joe Mauer as part of the franchise for 18 years," St. Peter said. "I think his longtime teammate Michael Cuddyer said it best last week when he couldn't think of a single person who represented an organization, a city, a community and a state better than Joe Mauer."
Mauer was a local legend growing at Cretin-Durham High School, as Ryan and Molitor said they first saw Mauer play as a 13-year old and he struck out just once in his high school career. Mauer thanked Ryan for taking a chance on him in the 2001 Draft that also featured Mark Prior, Mark Teixeira, among others, but Ryan said it was Mauer who deserves the credit.
"He's a tremendous human being," Ryan said. "He checked every box you'd ever want to check."
And while Mauer was more of a quiet leader and didn't show much emotion on the field, he still had a deep passion for the game and for winning.
"Joe's fire was as deep and burned as furiously as any athlete I ever played with," Molitor said. "He just had a way to be able to protect it outwardly for the most part because he knew consistency was a big part of our game in terms of how you handle yourself. Don't ever doubt for a second that Joe wanted to win more than any other player out there."
Mauer won batting titles in 2006, '08 and '09, winning the MVP Award in '09, when he led the AL in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Morneau, who also won an MVP Award with the Twins in '06, said it was incredible to hit after him in the lineup.
"He was as special of a hitter as there ever was," Morneau said. "He didn't chase pitches. He didn't swing at a pitch he didn't like. He seemed to find the barrel every time he swung. And as good as he was, he did it as a catcher. And that's why I think he should be in the Hall of Fame."
After his MVP season, Mauer signed an eight-year, $184 million contract that kept him in Minnesota for his entire career. He sustained a career-altering concussion in 2013 that forced him to move to first base and after enduring another concussion this May, Mauer decided to retire to spend more time with his family. Mauer and his wife, Maddie, have twin daughters and another child on the way in the next few days.
"It's a day of mixed emotions, for sure, for our family, the Twins organization and Twins fans, but it's obviously it's a day that had to come," Pohlad said. "I'll never forget the spring of 2010. My family and I were in Cambodia, and there were discussions about Joe's contract. When I came back, Joe shook my hand and told us he would always give us his best. I never doubted him. I'm sad for the organization, but I'm happy for Joe, Maddie and his entire family. It's a new era, and I wish him all the best."
Mauer retires as Minnesota's all-time leader in doubles and is second in hits behind Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett. Mauer is also second all-time among Twins players in Wins Above Replacement, only trailing Hall of Famer Rod Carew, per Baseball Reference. He's also one of only 22 players to ever win an MVP while playing an entire career of at least 15 years with one team and every other player on that list is in the Hall of Fame.
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"It means everything," Mauer said. "I never wavered where I wanted to be. This is where I wanted to be. My grandparents got to come to every home game. I can't think of any big leaguer who ever had that with their grandparents at every home game. Think about that, with 81 home games every year. They missed a dozen home games over 15 years. I don't know if you guys caught on, but one thing that was always special was I would tip my cap and that was for my grandparents. It was a little thing to show them how much it meant to be there every game. This is a special place for me and I'm proud to wear just one uniform."
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Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.