KANSAS CITY, MO. – Joe Mauer was like many in the baseball community on Monday, watching with interest as an emotional David Wright announced that he would play in one more game for the Mets before retiring.
"I saw that press conference," Mauer said. "He's had a rough couple of years. It will be fun to see him back in uniform, back on the field."
It also got Mauer thinking about his association with Wright, someone he's gotten to know through the years. And it goes all the way back to the beginning — rookie ball in 2001 when Mauer was with Elizabethton and Wright played for Kingsport. Mauer was the first overall pick that year, while Wright was selected 38th overall.
"Must have been two weeks into the season," Mauer said, "I was catching and he got hit by a pitch in the wrist and had to come out of the game.
"A couple of innings passed. The next time I came up, I get hit, right in the back.
"Rudy Hernandez [current Twins coach] was my manager. Joey Cora was the other manager. And there were some words exchanged and all that. Basically the premise was: If you hit our first-rounder, we're going to hit yours.
"So I had my first hit-by-pitch because of David Wright."
From that moment on, their careers took off, with Mauer becoming the best all-around catcher in baseball and Wright becoming such a force he was named the fourth-ever captain of the Mets.
The enormity of their successes have several similarities:
Both were drafted in 2001. Both made their major league debut in 2004. Wright is a seven-time All-Star, Mauer six. Both became the faces of their franchise. Mauer's career WAR is 54.9 while Wright's is 50.4.
And both are among the league's longest-tenured players with one team. Mauer entered Friday in the top spot with exactly 14 years of service time. Wright, at 13 years and 75 days, is third. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who also debuted in 2004, sits between them at 13 years, 123 days.
These days, Mauer keeps tabs on Wright from afar. But they played for Team USA in the 2013 World Baseball Classic and hit it off.
"We became pretty close there," Mauer said. "Got to know him on a personal level. It kind of reiterated a lot of things I already thought about him."
Both have had their health challenges, such as Mauer's recovery from a concussion in 2013 and subsequent move to first base. Wright was diagnosed with spinal stenosis in 2015 and has had back and shoulder problems since then. Wright has decided to retire after fighting in recent seasons to return to the field.
"I've been in this game 15 years and the longer you stay in this game you're going to deal with adversity," Mauer said. "You're going to have good times and bad times. Him getting out on that field that Saturday it going to mean a lot to him and a lot to a lot of people."
And both their careers could end in the same year, if Mauer decides to retire at the end of this season. Mauer told the Star Tribune on Wednesday that he will take some time after the season is over to reflect and consult with friends and family before deciding.
"The thing is that they have both done it the right way," said Michael Cuddyer, a former teammate of Mauer and Wright. "They have played the game the right way, they have carried themselves the right way. They both have been hallmarks, not just for their organizations but for Major League Baseball itself.
"No one knows what Joe is going to do but, if that were to happen, it would be crazy because they are very similar."