KANSAS CITY, MO. -- Before every game at Target Field, a video game commercial runs with Joe Mauer at the controller, using his own likeness to smash an impressive home run onto Target Plaza.
In reality, Mauer hasn’t homered at Target Field all season. He’s hit just one homer there since the ballpark opened last year.
This season, Mauer has missed 66 of his team's 146 games, but whether he plays or not, fans keep seeing him on commercials, sweating profusely in sports-drink ads, singing in a Minnesota tourism spot, mimicking Troy Polamalu in a shampoo ad.
Late last month, Mauer missed six games with a neck injury. During that absence, a local fitness company launched an ad campaign that plays off the catcher’s wholesomeness. It includes the line, “Any time Joe Mauer hits a single, an angel gets its wings.”
When I spoke to Mauer for this story about the criticism he’s faced this season, we talked about his work as a pitch man. It’s caused some backlash, including some within his own clubhouse, with some grumbling that he seems more focused on making commercials than keeping himself on the field.
But all the ads were shot last offseason. Mauer said the time he spent shooting all the ones that have runs this year combined to take about one week of his time. The companies are told that Mauer has a conditioning program that he needs to follow, so arrangements are made for his workouts.
“It’s funny, you see the commercials, and because I’ve done things for Sony and Gatorade, I mean, they play them over and over, and it might seem like I’m spending a lot of time with them,” Mauer said. “But fans and people are frustrated [with his season], and they see that, and it’s just kind of like another thing. So I understand where it’s coming from, but I guess it’s good they know how little time it really takes.”
Mauer is under contract to shoot more commercials this winter, but again, he doesn’t plan to let it interrupt his offseason workout plan. It's imperative for him to come to spring training stronger, and he knows it. I asked him if he thought about cutting back on the ads.
“I don’t think I’m going to take on anything else,” Mauer said with a knowing chuckle. “Obviously, there’s some things I’ve tried, and some things I won’t do. There’s things that I tried and liked. but obviously, I know what my job is, and that’s what comes first and foremost.”