Don’t Talk With Your Mouth Full…My Chat with Joe Mauer

Disclaimer:  This blog is dedicated to Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.  The interviews in this blog were conducted back in Spring Training and are written down now that Joe Mauer is on MLB rehab in the Florida State League.  Well, that and the fact that the Marauders are playing Mauer and the Fort Myers Miracle this weekend.  So here’s the story…

When the Twins came to Bradenton is was near the end of Spring Training and Joe Mauer was making his first roadtrip.  About an hour and a half prior to first pitch I meandered down to the Twinkies clubhouse to talk to Mauer about his time in the FSL.  It was for our series on big leaguers that had been in the league.  Lucky for me Joe was at one of the first lockers when you walk in so I didn’t have to go searching around in foreign territory.  As I walked up to him he had finished a sandwich a was opening a bag of Sun Chips.

“Hey Joe.  Can you talk and eat?” I asked him.  He appeared to be on the verge of saying yes when Gardenhire comes from the other side of the clubhouse.

“Hey can’t we just let the man eat!” Gardenhire bellowed as he essentially chased me away.  On the way out I quickly set up to talk with Joe after the game.  In hindsight I think this would all make for a good Sun Chips commercial.

Anyway, I did end up speaking with Joe, his brother Jake (the Fort Myers manager) and Pirates outfielder Garrett Jones, who was a teammate of Mauers with the 2003 Miracle.  What ensued is as follows.

THE 2003 MIRACLE

“Awesome teammate,” said Pirates outfielder and former Twins farmhand Garrett Jones of Mauer.  “An unbelievable athlete.  We would joke around and play basketball and go bowling and you name it he was good at it.  He is a natural at everything he does.”

Joe Mauer hit .335 in 62 games with the Miracle in 2003.  He was one of 12 players on that team that would eventually make it to the Major Leagues.  Mauer was, of course, the most high profile having been a first round pick.  That ’03 season was Mauer’s second full year as a pro and only his third overall. 

“It’s a process,” Mauer said.  “I’ve had some great coaches to prepare me heading into pro baseball but the blinders kind of came off in instructional league and things like that.  I was able to go to big league camp when I was 18 years old and learned a lot of things and just tried to keep my ears open.”

Among the other members of that Miracle team were Jones, Jason Kubel, Jose Morales, J.D. Durbin, Jesse Crain and Pat Neshak — all eventual Major Leaguers.  The team got off to an outstanding start and finished 73-63 overall.

“It helps with your confidence and knowing you can hit the pro level,” Jones said.  “Just to build off that and improve each level you move up and get better every year.”

And as always, the best and worst part of the league according to both guys…travel, or lack thereof, and the heat.  Some answers just never change regardless of who you speak with.

“I remember how hot it was,” Mauer said.  “It’s just that Florida state heat.  It’s definitely a good league.  You’re going to see a lot of talent in this league.”

“It’s Florida and it’s the summer time and in the seventh inning you’ve got a lot of humidity and you’re sweating your butt off,” Jones said.  “You try to eat as much as you can but there’s a lot of good restaurants in Florida to try to keep the weight on.”

MY BROTHER AND ME

But Mauer had something on his side to help him through the rigors of the FSL.  The catcher started his professional career with his big brother on the same team.  Jake Mauer, four years Joe’s elder, hit .279 in 109 games for Fort Myers in 2003.  He reached Double-A in 2005 but his career was cut short due to injury.

“It was great,” Joe said.  “My oldest brother is four years older than I am so we never really played together until that point.  Spending more time with him for a year and a half in the minor leagues was great.”

The two have crossed paths again since, with Joe playing on rehab stints in the Gulf Coast League and now in Fort Myers, were Jake has been the manager.

“You know he was a pleasure to have down in the Gulf Coast League,” Jake said.  “Joe never does anything different.  It’s a little thing but we take batting practice with our helmets.  A lot of big league guys that come down don’t do that.  He says ‘well everybody else is doing it so I’ll do it.’ It helps drive the point home to these young kids that here’s a guy in the big leagues and he’s doing the same things you guys are doing.  We’re not just doing it.  We’re doing it for a purpose.”

But Joe’s rehab stints don’t come without strings attached. 

“I told him I better be catching and hitting third,” Joe said with a laugh.  “I was.  So it was good.”

“Maybe I’m not going to play you today,” Jake responded smiling.

DON’T PLAY IN THE POOL

On a side note, we also found out that Garrett Jones and Joe Mauer were roommates in the minors.  Jones didn’t really have any inside dirt on the catcher but he did realize he owes him money. 

“I actually broke the basketball hoop in his swimming pool,” Jones said.  “But he thought it was pretty funny when I did it.”

Till next time,

Joel

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About Joel Godett
Joel Godett is in his secod year broadcasting Bradenton Marauders baseball. His career has carried him from Syracuse to Buffalo, Roanoke, Cape Cod, Tampa and Bradenton. He is originally from New Jersey and somehow grew up an Atlanta Braves fan.

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