Joe Mauer has won three batting titles and an American League MVP award and has reached six All-Star Games in his 11-season career with the Twins, but when asked about his experience in the game he couldn’t help but lament the fact that he didn’t make the team this year to play in his hometown.
“It is a little disappointing, definitely it was one of my goals coming into the season,” said Mauer, who still has duties this week as the All-Star Game ambassador. “A lot of things happened along the way and it just didn’t work out for me this year. Right now I have to concentrate on trying to get back and helping our team win, but No. 1 I have to get healthy. This year it didn’t work for me, but I’m going to be cheering for my teammates.
“I’m really happy a lot of my teammates got in. … It’s a great event, a great honor, and I know we’ll put on a good show here.”
Mauer has hit .364 in his six All-Star Games with a double and an RBI. In last year’s game at New York’s Citi Field, his fifth-inning single helped the American League score its second run in a 3-0 victory.
The Cretin-Derham Hall product was asked what it was like when he first walked into an All-Star clubhouse in 2006 at Pittsburgh.
“It’s pretty surreal when you walk into that clubhouse and you realize the amount of talent that is in there,” he said. “My first All-Star Game was in 2006, and I got the locker next to a future teammate of mine, Jim Thome, and Ichiro Suzuki, so to be put between those two guys and look across the room and see [Derek] Jeter and [David] Ortiz and all those guys, it’s a pretty humbling moment, but also a pretty fun moment because you’re just around such great players.”
Asked if he had a favorite All-Star Game he played in, he replied: “I think the first one is always going to be really special. That was back in Pittsburgh, but one for me that I’ll probably remember the most was in 2009 in St. Louis and I got an opportunity to participate in the Home Run Derby and actually asked my high school coach, Jim O’Neil, to pitch to me, so that was a really special couple of days to have him there and experience all the events that come along with the All-Star Game. I’d have to say that stands out the most for me.”
While Mauer has made the transition to first base this season, his All-Star history is strictly at catcher, and he said that getting to catch future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera was a real highlight.
“My first All-Star Game I got to come in in the fifth inning and I got to close out a win with Mariano Rivera and to catch him, probably the best closer of all time, and to catch him and win the All-Star Game — I think I was 23 in my first All-Star Game — it was pretty special,” he said.
Working to recover
This year, Mauer was finally starting to recover from a terrible slump when he landed on the disabled list because of an oblique injury earlier this month. He had a 12-game hitting streak and was hitting .362 with a .400 on-base percentage and 12 RBI over the streak. It only added to what Mauer called a very trying season.
“You know it has been frustrating, it has been a very trying year for me,” he said. “I was swinging the bat a little better earlier in the season and had some back spasms that kind of knocked me back down, and I tried to get back as soon as I could and kind of went into a little funk again and started swinging the bat pretty good recently and had this oblique thing. Like I said, it has been a pretty trying year, but I’ve been in there working and trying to get back. With being in this game so long you know if you keep working and doing the right things, things will eventually turn your way. Unfortunately injuries are part of the game, but hopefully this is the last of it for me this year and I can move forward and get back on the field.”
Mauer said the injury was extremely painful.
“It’s a little muscle in your core, and when it happened it felt like I got shot,” he said. “Every little movement, breathing, every little movement you’re feeling it. It’s starting to calm down a little bit and I’m starting to do everyday things a little bit better right now, so that’s good.”
And how has the transition to first base been this season?
“It’s going pretty good,” he said. “It is definitely different, a different thing for me. It has been a lot of firsts for me this year, just trying to prepare every day to play first base instead of catching. Having caught for so long, you kind of do a lot of the same things and have your routines, and I’m a very routine-oriented guy. It has been a little different for me, but I’m learning a lot and feeling a lot more comfortable each time I go out there.”
Asked where he will watch Tuesday’s game, he said: “I haven’t really gotten that far yet. I’m definitely going to be a part of the festivities, and they asked me to be the ambassador this past offseason and I’ll be at FanFest and doing some things to promote the game here in Minnesota. I’ll still be doing those things, but I think they’ll have me running around doing a lot of different things those couple of days.”