It was 2009, the Twins were headed to Chicago for an interleague series against the Cubs and Joe Mauer had a decision to make.
“I thought I was either going to the emergency room or going to the ballpark,” he said.
The Twins were traveling in from Oakland, where Mauer picked up a bug that developed into the flu. He was so sick that he considered heading to a Chicago-area hospital the day of the series opener.
He chose the ballpark. He had a good reason.
An unassuming sportswriter, walking in the tunnel from the visitors clubhouse to the dugout a couple hours before the series opener, encountered an ill Mauer in the midst of hacking coughs, snorting and sneezing. He asked Mauer if he was going to be able to play.
“I have to,” Mauer said. “My mother is here.”
When the 2009 schedule was released, Teresa Mauer saw the dates of the Cubs series and began planning a trip to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. More than 100 friends and family members were in attendance.
So No. 7 was playing.
Mauer, before Thursday’s game against Boston, immediately remembered the day.
“I was pretty bad,” Mauer said, “but I think I had a really good game.”
Indeed, Mauer blasted a two-run homer to left-center off Randy Wells in the third inning. He went 2-for-4 with three RBI in a game the Twins won 7-4. He finished the day with a .413 batting average, and had many more good days after that as he went on to win the American League Most Valuable Player award.
“I’ve said to the guys that sometimes when you feel like that you have your best games,” Mauer said. “I guess you just relax, or whatever. I remember throwing up. I wasn’t in a good place.
“I don’t remember mentioning it to my mom, but I probably did. I had lot of family and friends in the stands, so I had to get through that one.”
The Twins took two of three games of that series, with the Cubs winning on Sunday in walk-off fashion to avoid a sweep. Twins fans were the story of the weekend, as thousands showed up for the games and were in full throat. Cubs officials said at the time that it was the loudest a visiting fan base had been, even louder than when Cardinals fans show up.
Now the Twins are headed to Chicago this week for three games against the White Sox, then three against the Cubs.
“I like going to Chicago,” Mauer said. “It will be a good place to be for a week.”
After that, the Twins will travel by bus to Milwaukee to play the Brewers, with the third game on the Fourth of July. Could there be a better road trip for a Twins fan?
Indians: Cleveland’s bullpen has been a mess for most of the season but has an 3.35 ERA in June after posting an 8.01 ERA in May. Cleveland had to scramble this month after injuries — including one to relief ace Andrew Miller — and ineffectiveness has forced them to use 18 different relievers so far. Cleveland needed just 12 relievers in all of 2017 and will be looking arms before the trade deadline.
Royals: With the trade of closer Kelvin Herrera to Washington, righthander Brandon Maurer has a chance to step into the ninth inning role. Maurer has closing experience with the Padres, but manager Ned Yost indicated that Kevin McCarthy, Justin Grimm and Wily Peralta could all get chances before he settles on who the last man standing will be.
Tigers: Righthander Drew VerHagen was late covering first base on Tuesday as Detroit attempted to turn a double play. By the time he reached the base, Jose Iglesias’ throw was already there — and struck VerHagen right in the nose. “I felt it kind of crunch,” he said. VerHagen had the nose reset after game but still landed on the DL.
White Sox: Jose Abreu, batting .281 with 11 home runs and 42 RBI is the leading vote-getter among first baseman for the All-Star Game, and would be a natural to take part in the Home Run Derby — if he was interested. But he’s not. “If I’m in the All-Star Game, that’s OK, but [The Derby] isn’t one of my goals,” he said.
THE 3-2 PITCH
Here are three observations ...
• It’s a good idea to have the Royals and Tigers play a game in Omaha next year as part of College World Series week in Omaha. There’s a lot to gain from a connection between Major League Baseball and the college game.
• While they are at it, MLB should continue the dialogue with the NCAA about supplying college teams with wood bats.
• You think the Twins are the only team with someone like Logan Morrison batting under .200? USA Today reported that 41 position players with sub .200 batting averages played in games on Tuesday. It’s a feast-or-famine, sail-or-fail sport now.
... and two predictions.
• The Twins will go 2-4 in their six games in Chicago this week.
• Jorge Polanco, serving a PED suspension, will return to the majors before Miguel Sano, Ervin Santana or Byron Buxton.