Minnesotans have a complicated relationship with Joe Mauer. He’s been in the public eye the entire millennium, from high school phenom to the face the Twins franchise. A golden boy initially, Mauer racked up batting titles, All Star appearances and ultimately an MVP. All was swell in Twins Territory. In 2011 however, the Twins lost 99-games and Mauer’s nine-figure contact extension kicked in. It hasn’t been the same since.
Despite the inevitable ups-and-downs in our relationship, Joe Mauer has been pretty good to us. He’s played baseball an elite level, never let his fame or fortune affect his down-to-earth outlook and has always represented us with class. I don’t think any of us could have done it better.
The 32-year-old and I chatted earlier this season about his team, career and even touched on what makes him tick.
DZ: You’ve got to be happy about how the team has been playing recently and how the season has started for you personally, could you just talk about that a little?
MAUER: Yeah, it’s been great. Obviously we just had that four game sweep (of the White Sox) here at home. It’s good to be home. Hopefully we can keep this momentum going into May.
DZ: Do you feel like a first baseman now…?
MAUER: I feel a lot more comfortable. This time last year – well, I guess I am still learning the position, but I feel a lot more comfortable at this point in the season.
DZ: One of your greatest assets was always your arm as a catcher, and as an athlete in general, I guess. As a first baseman, that’s kind of neutralized I guess; how did you feel about that initially; how do you feel about it now?
MAUER: I am in a different position, I just try to help the team the best I can in that position. I was able to do some things as a catcher – some positive things and I am trying to do some positive things as a first baseman too.
DZ: Obviously last year didn’t go the way you planned (and) you didn’t play the way you were used to playing. What did you take away from that; what did you learn?
MAUER: Well (pauses), how to battle, just keep battling. Physically I was pretty beat up, that was a story that was probably well documented, but I am feeling good this year and you move on, make adjustments, that’s the name of the game.
DZ: Early in your career…you guys were basically in contention every year through 2010 and obviously since then it hasn’t gone so well. Looking back on that did you kind of took for granted you were going to win…?
MAUER: No, no I don’t think so…
DZ: Maybe not took it for granted, but expected it?
MAUER: We expect to go out and do well every night, that hasn’t changed. Obviously the last four years, like you said, haven’t been the plan. That’s part of being a professional; going out there and keep working and trying to get better. I think we are doing that.
DZ: Obviously, Justin Morneau and you are still good friends. How do you keep in touch with him?
MAUER: During the season it’s a little tougher, we are all over the different time zones, things like that. A lot of texts messages…he’s doing well and I am happy to see him playing well too.
DZ: Did you guys hook up in the off season at all?
MAUER: We did a couple of times. We are good friends, I was in his wedding and he was in mine. He’s one of those guys – friendships that will last forever.
DZ: He won the batting title last year, that’s always kind of been your thing.
MAUER: I was happy for him. I told him I was in a different league, that’s why he won it (laughs). No, it was great, I was happy to see him do that and see him bounce back and have a great year.
DZ: Did you give him any advice down the stretch; it was a pretty close race?
MAUER: You know, actually I didn’t really talk to him a whole lot. I didn’t want to jinx him or anything. I know he’s a superstitious guy. I kind of kept my distance the last month or so, but I was probably one of the first ones to call him when it happened.
DZ: Some new looks this year, you’ve got the beard, the new home unis, what do you think about those two…?
MAUER: The beard, I don’t know where that happened. I figure now a good reason to wear it for the Wild, with the postseason run they are having. It’s a playoff beard. That’s what I am going with right now.
DZ: Kind of gives you a little more tough guy image.
MAUER: (laughs) I thought it was going to be cold, but it’s been pretty nice up here.
DZ: Last year the All Star game was here and you had basically made the All Star Game every year forever it seemed like. How tough was it for you to miss that and not be part of the game?
MAUER: It was tough. I was just a tough year all around. I wasn’t healthy, you are battling trying to get back and it just didn’t work out. But, it’s a new year and that’s what I am looking forward to.
DZ: You’ve always been known as a very laid back guy and sometimes people say they want to see more emotion …It’s just not your personality it doesn’t seem like. Obviously to have the success you’ve had, you must be passionate about the game. What does that mean to you? How do you express that?
MAUER: I like to think I really haven’t changed much in that sense. They weren’t saying that when things were going good for us. It is what it is. I am very competitive, I think people really close to me know that and the last four years have been real tough, but we are trying to change that.
DZ: You’ve been a celebrity in this state basically since high school, there’s probably nobody else who has played here that has (a similar experience).
MAUER: That’s all I know. That’s all I know.