It took science to bring Joe Mauer and Lindsay Whalen together.
The two quintessential Minnesota athletes, stars on both the amateur and professional level in this state, grew up before our eyes during the same time frame.
But until Tuesday, despite all their similarities and accomplishments, they had never met.
Wait, what? You’re telling me that two athletes we’ve known about since they were teenagers who are now 33 (Mauer) and 34 (Whalen) have never even crossed paths? How is this even possible?
Mauer shrugged. Whalen shrugged. (Of course they shrugged.)
“I don’t know,” Whalen offered. “Our seasons are at the same time, I guess.”
Added Mauer: “I feel like I’ve known her for a long time.”
They finally had a chance to shake hands and chat Tuesday at the Science Museum, making very Minnesotan small talk about their respective offseasons interspersed with pauses and shifting of weight from one leg to the other.
Both were there to film slow-motion footage of their athletic prowess for a new “Sportsology” exhibit opening Jan. 6 that explores the science of bodies in motion.
Whalen tried to time her appearance so she could finally meet Mauer and was even a little nervous about it. When told about that, Mauer grinned and said, “You guys know I’m not really that cool.”
To countless Minnesotans, though, both of them are cool and then some.
Mauer was in Twins gear swinging bats and throwing balls. Whalen was in her Lynx gear showing off her dribbling, shooting and passing.
The idea of the “motion lab” is that kids (and adults, too) can do the same things, then compare their slow-motion videos to those of their heroes.
Mauer and Whalen are only two of several athletes who lent their time and expertise to the process, but they are the most recognizable.
Little kids standing on a staircase from which they can peer into the under-construction exhibit shouted and waved to both.
The footage they recorded will have staying power, since the Sportsology exhibit — modeled after a similar and wildly popular exhibit at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas — is slated to be at the museum for at least five years.
It features plenty of other interactive stations, including a track where competitors can race against everyone/everything from an elite athlete to Twins mascot T.C. Bear to a dinosaur.
“When I realized this was going be here for so long, it was even more special and meaningful,” Whalen said. “It’s something I’m proud of and happy to be a part of.”
Both she and Mauer could say the same, too, about meeting for the first time after all these years.
“I definitely was excited to meet her and chat with her a bit,” Mauer said. “I’m a big fan of hers and wanted to let her know I’ve been watching her from afar.”