When he was 4 years old, JOE MAUER got kicked out of his local T-ball league, and it wasn’t because he was whiny or selfish or couldn’t play well with others. It was because he was too good. “What could I do?” Mauer says. “They wanted me out of the league because I hit the ball too hard.”
Today, the rest of the American League only wishes it could do the same. Last season, the 23-year-old catcher for the Minnesota Twins hit .347 and beat out Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter to become the first backstop in baseball history to win the AL batting title.
MF: Your roommate is Justin Morneau, 2006’s American League MVP. How’d that pairing come about?
JM: I have a townhome in St. Paul-I grew up there, so I know that area pretty well-and it’s 10 minutes from where we play. Every year I’ve had a player stay with me. In ’05, I had Jason Bartlett come and stay with me. That year, Justin struggled a little bit, and he thought it’d be a good idea to move in. It worked out pretty good. We both had great years [in 2006], and I was really excited for him when he won MVP.
MF: So you guys get along pretty well?
JM: Well, he’s 25 and I’m 23, so we’re close in age. We’re kind of opposites a little bit, because he used to like to go out a lot, and I was more of a homebody. But I think we had an even trade-off. We did the usual stuff-hang out, watch movies. We were getting into those TV shows – Prison Break and The Office. Those two were very popular for us.
MF: The American version of The Office or the British one?
JM: I like the American one. The British one I can’t really understand everything that’s going on. I like that Steve Carell – he’s pretty funny.
MF: What’s the toughest part about being a professional catcher?
JM: It’s tough physically but also mentally. Say you play in the outfield: You know there are things you need to do on defense. But you’re not in on every pitch. You can relax a little. With catching, the play is always on you.
MF: With 160-plus games every year, what’s the key to being able to play every day?
JM: Maintaining the strength that you have during the season. When you’re in the end of September and the beginning of October, you’re going to be tired. I think any baseball player would tell you [the key is] keeping your legs underneath you. Look at baseball players. For the most part, they’ve got big legs.
MF: Is it true that you only struck out once in your entire high school career?
JM: I can remember the time I did strike out. It was junior year, and it was in the state tournament. I came back to the bench and everybody thought something was wrong with me. [Laughs]