As Mauer Returned to Camp, He Made Time for All!
Photos and Story by Gordy Jones
As soon as he finished, as he walked toward me, he was intercepted by another reporter. He glanced at me, signaling he’d be there soon, and talked to the other guy. After accommodating the other reporter, he invited me to sit with him in the dugout. As we entered the dugout, a dozen or more pre-game young fans shouted his name and held out balls and photos to be signed. He glanced up, and gave a smile, an acknowledgment that he knew they were there. We shook hands, and then sat down as I put my thoughts together.
Joe Mauer played well at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) and arrived back at camp with a full head of steam: going two for three, throwing out a runner attempting to steal, and catching a wide throw at the plate and diving back to the plate to tag a runner before he could score. I asked Joe what the WBC experience was like. “It’s a great event,” he said. “It’s a chance to represent your country, and to represent it in baseball. It was a wonderful event. It was a little weird playing against Justin Morneau — it was fun — but I’m glad we won that game or I’d never hear the end of it. It was fun to get out there and have ‘Perk’ (Glen Perkins) on the mound and Justin at the plate.” I asked Joe if it was difficult coming together as a national unit when there is so little time to prepare. “Yes, it’s different. You have two exhibition games before it starts, and the fact you’re trying to get ready for the season. It’s a little tough, but it is something I’d definitely do again if I had the chance.”
He looked great — relaxed and in shape. I thought he’d be ready to go if the season began tomorrow, but he said, “I still have a little work to do. You know there’s still more than a week until we start the season. It will be nice to use those days to get back into a routine. The last couple of weeks, I felt like I’ve lived out of a suitcase. It’s nice to have a little more time to get ready for the year.”
I told Joe I thought the Twins’ lineup looks great, but I asked him if he thought the pitching will ever come together. “I hope so,” he said. “I hope everything comes together. The guys are getting after it down here at camp. It’s exciting to see the team begin to form, and we still have more than a week to figure things out, so I think we should be fine.”
Before he went back to his workout, I asked Joe who was going to win the NCAA basketball tournament this year. “I have no idea,” he said with a laugh, “You’re asking the wrong guy. I haven’t had time to follow basketball. All I know is the Big Ten looked pretty tough this year, so I’d probably take one of those teams.”
As we finished our talk, a woman from ESPN asked Joe for a few minutes of his time, and although I know he was panicking in his mind about it being too close to game time, he accommodated her with a smile. A short time later, I looked into the dugout to see them finish up. A couple of Joe’s teammates ran up the tunnel, and he said that he’d be right behind them; he had to take care of something. He walked up to the top step of the dugout to see if the kids were still there. They were, and he signed autographs for every one of them, as he conversed like he knew them well, and looked them each in the eye and smiled as he returned their freshly autographed items. Joe loves children, and he’s going to be a great father.