Archive for November 24th, 2009

24
Nov
09

Congrats, Joe Mauer — and thanks for proving me right!

Joe Mauer, Elizabethton, Tenn., Aug. 9, 2001

Congratulations to Joe for being named, in practically unanimous fashion (27 out of 28 votes), the American League MVP. And it did my heart good to hear sports columnists-turned radio talk show hosts Dan Barreiro and Pat Ruesse actually admit this week they were wrong in their appraisal of Joe. When the Twins selected him No. 1 overall in the MLB Draft in June of 2001, Barreiro and Ruesse along with others were vocal critics of the Twins. Part of their thinking was that the Twins already had a veteran team and that adding a ready-to-go pitching ace like Mark Prior from USC would put them into contention for bigger things. The other part of their criticism was that Mauer was simply going to come a lot cheaper to sign for a smaller market team like the Twins than Prior, who’s three years older than Joe.

Did these guys bother to watch him play in high school? I’ll tell you what did it for me — watching Cretin-Derham Hall’s (CDH) game versus Brainerd in the state baseball semi-finals at Midway Stadium. I got to the game in the fourth inning, I believe. CDH is losing, 4-1. Joe had just been selected by the Twins in the draft and the place was full of TV cameras. Talk about pressure. Joe comes up tp the plate and hits a three-run homer. Game tied. Then his coach, Jim O’Neill, put Joe on the mound to pitch in relief. (Yes, I have a photo of him.) The radar gun was operating that day and Joe’s pitches were clocked at 92 mph. He struck out eight or nine guys and CDH won, 5-4. CDH went onto win the state tournament. Walking away that day made me think I’d just seen a John Elway-Michael Jordan-type performance: One guy went out there and took control of a championship-level game.

Since I don’t have my own radio show, the best verification I have is my friend Sue Ann Robak. She was working as a TV sports reporter in Lacrosse, Wis., at the time. I called her right before the Fourth of July that year and during the course of the conversation said, “You’ve heard of that guy Joe Mauer, the catcher the Minnesota Twins just selected in the draft… he’s going to be great.” Ask her.

PHOTO GALLERY: Joe Mauer Through the Years