Joe Mauer is America.
He’s a midwestern boy brought up to appreciate the value of hard work and family.
He plays America’s pastime as well as anyone on the planet.
One has to assume he loves apple pie.
So why isn’t Mauer America’s golden-boy?
If Mauer played in New York he would be the most popular player in baseball, and would already have been afforded the hero status reserved for Derek Jeter.
Instead, Mauer plays for his hometown, small-market Twins.
As a child he idolized Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek. When dad took older brothers Jake and Billy to see the Twins play the Cardinals in the World Series in 1987, but left 4-year-old Joe at home, Joe was so upset he locked himself in his closet until Jake, Billy, and Jake Sr. returned. When the Twins won it all that season, Joe went nuts, just like he did when they won the series again in 1991.
Now he puts on the same Twins uniform worn by his idols. He and friend Justin Morneau are the Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek to a whole new generation of Twins fans.
For all of Mauer’s success on the field, including the 2009 AL MVP and three batting titles, it’s the man off the field that makes him worthy of America’s admiration.
In his spare time Mauer enjoys writing and recording his own rap music, he loves his mom’s lasagna, and counts The Office as one of his can’t-miss shows. Joe Mauer is a regular guy who happens to be an unbelievably gifted athlete.
Mauer’s family is exceedingly important to him as well. Joe’s brothers, Jake and Billy, are two of the most important people in his life. He still insists that his true baseball hero is his eldest brother Jake, who retired after his 2005 season with the Twins Double-A affiliate New Britain.
Furthermore, Mauer greatly values his fans, and thus insists on answering all his fan mail personally. As Mauer’s popularity grew, the task became too much for him to handle alone, so Mauer hired his mother Teresa to help him organize and pen responses.
In addition, Mauer has been involved in a variety of community service activities in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, including the Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota, a program that supports education and youth mentoring, and Friends of St. Paul Baseball, an organization that works to improve baseball facilities for youths in St. Paul.
Perhaps the best thing about Joe Mauer is that everyone who meets him has a story to tell about the young man. I know that I do.
During his short stay with Double-A New Britain in 2003, I went to see a then 20-year-old Mauer in action. After the game, a couple hundred fans and I waited outside the fence surrounding the home team’s clubhouse for the budding superstar to emerge.
When Mauer did emerge, he didn’t sign a few autographs as he made his way to his car. He stopped and signed every single program, ticket stub, and baseball card shoved under his nose. He signed for kids half his age and middle-aged men twice it. He even bothered to make small talk and smile.
About halfway through the process, one of Mauer’s childhood idols, and then Twins’ roving hitting coach, Paul Molitor, exited the New Britain clubhouse and towards the crowd huddled around Mauer.
Mauer looked up from the program he was signing, waiting for the crowd to shuffle toward the Hall of Famer. Not a single person scattered away from the young catcher.
With a slightly confused look on his face, Mauer stated, “That’s Paul Molitor.” Once again the crowd stood put. Mauer shrugged and continued to sign for his fans.
At that moment for some reason I knew this 20-year-old kid would be great. A great ballplayer. A great role model.
Joe Mauer represents everything that is right in America.
Joe Mauer deserves to be an American hero.