Joe Mauer often comes across as the reluctant superstar, someone who prefers to be cloaked in anonymity rather than embracing the spotlight.
He’s been blessed with an overloaded baseball talent gene, which has enabled him to win three batting titles and one MVP Award. He’s earned fame and commercial success. But he’s more the face of the franchise than its voice.
This summer he will have to be both.
He will be the focus of the Twin Cities — and the region — when the baseball world comes here for the All-Star Game in July. Mauer will be officially named All-Star ambassador sometime in April, which means he will be involved in numerous functions and ad campaigns leading up to the Midsummer Classic. The Mets’ David Wright was last year’s ambassador, an honor for him because he rooted for the Mets as a child and the game was at the Mets’ CitiField.
Mauer’s involvement this year is exponentially impactful because he is St. Paul’s son. He is part of a family whose genealogy is woven into this area’s sports history. He is part of a baseball history here that includes Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield, Jack Morris and others as homegrown stars.
Mauer has come to grips with what’s expected of him. He began to realize that at last year’s All-Star Game when he ran into Wright in the omelet line during a luncheon the day of the game and a weary Wright said to him, “Have fun next year.”
“Great guy,” Mauer said. “I think we had a lot of similarities. We had a good conversation. He said it’s a lot, but he enjoyed it. Spreading that brand of baseball, playing in his home park. He had a lot of fun with it.”
It might appear to be a cushy public-relations gig. But MLB asks a lot of the local ambassador in getting communities geared up for the weeklong celebration of the sport.
Torii Hunter was selected as ambassador when the Angels played host to the game in 2010 and remembers a packed appearance schedule.
“I have to be honest, it was a grind,” said the former Twins star, now with the Tigers. “I was up at 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. I had field dedications, autograph sessions, meet-and-greets and all the festivities that went on ’til the wee hours of the night.
“Joe can expect some long days and long nights. He has a choice to just enjoy it and soak it all in or be irritated by all the tugging that is coming his way. I think Joe is the perfect guy for the task. He smiles and is very well-mannered. He will represent Minnesota and the Twins the way they expect him to.”
Wright was voted into the game as the starting third baseman and admitted he worried he wouldn’t make it. Mauer, with this being his migration-to-first base season, might not make the team. He is now lumped in with players who have power hitting in their backgrounds, and a certain do-it-all slugger named Miguel Cabrera is back at first base after two seasons at third base for the Tigers. Mauer will have to hit at a batting-title clip to even be in the hunt.
Regardless whether he’s on the All-Star team, Mauer has to be part of the buildup for the event.
“Hosting the Major League Baseball All-Star Game is a once-in-a-generation occurrence,” Twins President Dave St. Peter said. “The opportunity to do so — with a hometown and homegrown All-Star such as Joe Mauer as the primary spokesperson — is incredibly exciting for our franchise.
“There is no doubting the prestige, community pride and economic impact which comes with hosting MLB’s Midsummer Classic. Said impact is exponentially greater for the local baseball community when an in-state product such as Joe Mauer is on center stage. Joe represents thousands and thousands of baseball players across Twins Territory, kids just like Joe who love the game and are growing up in a less-than-ideal baseball climate. Joe’s story continues to inspire other area athletes to stick with the game and to follow their baseball dreams.”
Jake Mauer, Joe’s brother and manager of the Twins’ Class A team at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was asked if his brother is ready for such a responsibility.
“I think Joe will be pretty humbled,” Jake Mauer said. “He is the face of it and pretty excited to be able to do that, to show people not only what the Twins are all about but what Minnesota has to offer.”
The Twin Cities host an All-Star Game once every 30 or so years, so they have to put their best foot forward. That means showing off the still-feels-new Target Field and their next most important asset. Joe Mauer is being called upon, and he will respond.
“That’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing, to be in that position,” Mauer said. “To show off your hometown, your team, to have the All-Star Game there, that’s an honor.
“It might be a little bit of a headache at the time, but that’d be pretty good.’’