In an emotional Monday morning press conference, Minnesota Twins legend Joe Mauer called it a career after 15 seasons with his hometown team. I believe Mauer will wind up in the baseball Hall of Fame one day, it's just a question of whether he'll be a first ballot HOFer.
If you grew up in St. Paul (like I did), you likely weren't more than a few degrees separation from a Mauer (In fact, Joe's great-uncle Ken Mauer, Sr. was my English teacher when I was in 10th grade). With Joe being among the third or fourth generation of Mauers to dominate the St. Paul sports scene, he took it to another level. Not only was he the #1 overall pick by the Twins in the 2001 baseball draft, he also had a full ride scholarship offer to play quarterback at Florida State University.
I'm not certain I can put in to words what Mauer meant to me as a Twins fan. All I know is he was the best pure hitter I ever saw don a Twins uniform. Is he the best player in Twins history? I dunno about that, but baseball wonk Aaron Gleeman laid it out last month as to why Mauer is, minimum, in the top five of all-time Twins greats.
I had an opportunity to catch most of Joe's farewell speech, including the entire Q&A session with media members. A lot of talk occurred about highlights of Joe's career, specifically being the only catcher in American League history to win a batting title (he won three from 2006 to 2009), as well as his MVP season of 2009, his six All-Star Game appearances, the fact he was able to become a gold glove caliber first baseman after a 2013 concussion derailed his ability to play catcher, 2,000+ career hits, etc.
Yet when asked what he's most proud of in this storied career, Mauer said it was his grandparents only missing about a dozen of his home games in 15 years. That right there tells you everything you need to know about Mauer the person.
To say he'll be missed is an understatement.