Like most tourists to the nation’s capital, Joe Mauer came home from Washington two weeks ago with a few souvenirs. But these weren’t gift-shop trinkets or D.C. T-shirts.
Mauer asked Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals’ three biggest stars, to autograph bats for him, and each obliged, sending via clubhouse assistants a bat with a personalized message on it. Someday, you will be able to read those inscriptions — you know, if Mauer invites you over to his cabin.
“I wish I had done a little more of that stuff earlier in my career,” Mauer said of his memorabilia collecting. “I’ve played with and against some pretty amazing players, and you see a lot of that [trading souvenirs] now. And I realized a while ago, as I’ve gotten older, some of that means something to me, and I wish I had kept a few things from a few years back.”
That sort of equipment is indeed common these days, and it’s not at all unusual to see a Miguel Cabrera jersey or an Albert Pujols bat stashed in a visiting player’s locker during a road trip. Mauer has reciprocated many times, of course, signing a jersey or a bat for an opposing player. And he has begun building an interesting collection of mementos from his own career.
“Up in my cabin, I have a couple of racks of bats from guys I’ve played against over the years. [David] Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Cabrera,” Mauer said.
The jewel of his collection is a bat that Ted Williams signed for him a decade ago.
“I’ve got some pretty cool stuff. It’ll be nice when my kids grow up to show them who their dad played with and against,” said the soon-to-be father of twins. “Like I said, I’ve been trying to get better at it.”
Someday — not until he’s retired, “because I don’t want to get content with anything yet; I don’t want to look like I’m resting on my accomplishments,” Mauer said — he’ll create a display with all the baseballs, lineup cards, jerseys, caps and bats.
The collector’s instinct isn’t universal, though. A fellow Minnesotan on the Twins roster, in fact, is just the opposite. Not only does Glen Perkins not save souvenirs from other players, he gives away memorabilia provided to him.
“I’ve got a friend who I give everything to. It means a lot to him, and it’s just knick-knacky stuff to me,” Perkins said. “I get it. I understand that some guys keep stuff. I’ve just never been one of them.”
Perkins has lots of souvenirs from his career, he said. But they are all in his head.
“Anyone can get an autographed jersey for a price. But two years ago, I spent 15 minutes talking to Mariano Rivera about pitching, out in the bullpen. That’s way more valuable,” Perkins said. “I got to pitch to Derek Jeter, I batted against Greg Maddux, I pitched against Frank Thomas, Rickey [Henderson]. That’s not something you can buy.”
The only clue about his profession at his house, Perkins said, is a portrait of Jim Thome that the slugger gave to each of his teammates as a thank you after hitting his 600th home run.
Well, he does have one souvenir craving, one he doesn’t really understand.
Perkins has made a habit of keeping the game ball from every game he saves, a habit he picked up from Joe Nathan, who was obsessive about it.
“I don’t know why I do it, other than Joe did, too,” said Perkins, who keeps the balls in a sock in his locker until there are 10, then takes them home. “They’re in a big jar in the laundry room, I think. I’m sure someday they’ll just be sitting in a duffel bag in my basement. But I’ve got them.”
Don’t be too quick to judge the James Shields trade a failure, just because the righthander is 2-6 for the Royals. Shields leads the American League in quality starts with 13 and has a 2.71 ERA. The problem? In seven of those 13 starts, the Royals have scored two runs or less.