Twins first baseman Joe Mauer played host to his second annual Mauer and Friends Kids Classic on Friday at Target Field, an event benefiting Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. Mauer’s reach in Twin Cities sports was on display, as local stars Zach Parise (Wild), Kyle Rudolph (Vikings) and several current and former Twins teammates participated. Mauer chatted at the event with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand:
Q Is this event becoming even bigger than you might have imagined it would?
A Yeah, to be honest it is. The response we’ve been getting from volunteers and special guests is really overwhelming and humbling. I don’t like to ask for a lot of things, but asking for Gillette and such a great cause, I was really pleasantly surprised at the response.
Q I saw you were chatting with old friend Justin Morneau, who was here for the event. How has that relationship and friendship grown over the years?
A It’s great. He’s a really good friend of mine, and ever since we met back in 2001 we’ve really just clicked. He’s a really great guy and obviously great ballplayer but better person off the field. He does a lot of charity work of his own. He was available and jumped at the opportunity to come here, and I can’t thank him enough.
Q Do you ever miss the days when you and Morneau were roommates?
A Ah, yes and no [laughs]. We had a lot of fun. We had a lot of the same interests and loved to play the game. We had some fun.
Q A lot has been written about the defense for this year’s Twins. You’ve been on plenty of good defensive teams, but is this one different or special?
A I think we’re getting better and better. Last year was a little difficult at times. But I think our defense has been a big reason we’ve been doing well this year. It’s been helping our pitching. You have to play both sides of the ball if you want to do well. Guys are really getting after it on the defensive side. We’re playing pretty good defense, and if we want to keep winning ballgames we need to keep doing that.
Q At this stage of your career [Mauer turned 34 two months ago] and given what this team has gone through in recent years, how does it feel to enter mid-June in first place?
A Well, anyone that knows me knows that I don’t like to lose at anything. We’ve set ourselves up, so far in the early season, to be in good shape. We just have to keep having the boys believe that we can do this and keep getting better.
Q The Twins picked Royce Lewis No. 1 overall in this past week’s MLB draft. Do you have any advice for him, having been the Twins’ last No. 1 overall pick 16 years ago?
A Just keep doing what you’ve been doing, and also there’s going to be a little bit of a target on your back.
Q Did you feel that target?
A Yeah, and I still kind of feel it. Every time the draft comes around, I’m still mentioned as [a No. 1 overall pick]. That’s OK because it comes along with it. But he needs to just keep going out and working hard every day. This is my 14th season in the big leagues and I’m still trying to do that. If he can do that, I think he’ll be fine.