Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota Twins


Joe Mauer… college football quarterback?

Joe and Me at the Vikings-Giants Monday night game in 2001. And he drove! (Photo by Carlos Gonzales)

If you live in Minnesota, you are prone to fanciful thinking these days. After all, who could have ever envisioned the Minnesota Vikings chief rival, Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers, ever leaving the Packers in the first place and then winding up with the Vikings — and coming within an overtime field goal from leading the Vikings to a Super Bowl appearance? Never in a million years! Or so we thought.

So, I read with some amusement Michael Rand’s blog piece from a couple weeks ago wondering if it might be possible — just possible! — Joe Mauer could ever wind up playing college football after he calls it a baseball career in a feat similar to what Heisman winner and fellow Cretin-Derham Hall alum Chris Weinke did. This time, Mauer, whose current deal ends in 2018, would stay home — hear that, Seantrel! — and play quarterback for the Minnesota Golden Gophers at the ripe old age of 35 years old. Rand called the University of Minnesota compliance office and got the low down from Andrea Smith, the assistant director of compliance (with a specialty in eligibility). Her verdict: “There wouldn’t be anything preventing someone like that from competing.”

Well, that got me to thinking… how on earth could Joe ever be a college student in the first place? He’s arguably the most famous person in Minnesota. He couldn’t walk across campus without being hounded for autographs or pictures or propositions of some sort or another. Could he be a full-time online student and play ball as well?

Seeking to get a few answers, I called my “anonymous source” contact within the Minnesota Golden Gophers football program. “The first thing I’d want to know is can he be a good quarterback. Brett Favre honed his craft playing almost 20 years in the NFL. Joe hasn’t payed football in a while. And how is he physically after playing a demanding position like catcher for so many years? Could he hold up at QB? Those are the first things I’d want to know,” anonymous told me.

As far as school goes, the university could make special arrangements for Joe to be on campus if he wanted to get his degree — and play football. “If Joe wanted to play, we’d welcome him,” anonymous said. “He’s such a gifted athlete we wouldn’t turn him down. Would you?”


Target Field Opens!

Amazing what some good begging can do for you. I’m not much into baseball, but I knew I had to be at opening day of Target Field, the brand new home of the Minnseota Twins here in Minneapolis. Luckily, Sports Illustrated baseball editor Nate Gordon gave me the call up from AAA to hit in the big leagues. All of these are mine except for one; the fish eye photo was by my partner for the game, Tom Dahlin. This gallery shows what the features of the new park inside. Target Field should be the place to be this summer, especially for those night games.


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