Monday, March 22, 2010

A Hometown Icon, Joe Mauer Is a Minnesota Twin for Life

He is, without much argument, the popular face in the state of Minnesota, quickly breaking out as the sporting icon within an atmosphere where he was born and raised before ripening as the greatest catcher in the majors.

Dating back to his childhood, Joe Mauer was covetous, immersing, and engaging in a sport that he idolized growing up as a Twins fan.

Certainly, in the midst of his endeavor, he dreamed to someday establish and engrave a place as a megastar in the game that he has admired dearly. And then, years later, a fairy tale turned into reality, now distinguished as a role model and a recognized star player.

Ever since the Minnesota Twins selected him with the No. 1 pick in the MLB's First-Year Player Draft, Mauer has been viewed as the feel-good story, a hometown hero within a rebuilding franchise. His loyalty and humble-minded psyche makes it easier for Minnesotans to accept and fall in love with the hometown native.

The state of Minnesota has seen him elevate in the coolest stages of his accomplished career, seeing much improvement each season and his batting numbers skyrocket. He’s on the level of advancing as the greatest player to ever wear a Twins uniform.

That goal came into clearer focus around dinner time on Sunday, as Mauer signed an eight-year, $184 million contract extension with the Twins, disclosing to all citizens that he’s likely a Twin eternally.

That’s exactly what Mauer intended, to remain at home for the rest of his playing career, and continue to thrive as a terrific slugging catcher in the game. It doesn’t take a fool to realize that he’s here to stay until his kneecaps give out on him, or until his body wears down completely.

With all due respect to others, Mauer is the one player in baseball that is deserving of such a wealthy deal, believed to be the purist slugger in the game.

Honestly, everyone needs to grasp a clear assumption that he has avoided fraudulent juice, a crime tarnishing the beautiful aspects of the game and exalted careers. There’s no front office more willing and understanding of lavishing Mauer with an enormous deal, getting an idea that his presence is bolstering ticket sales and attendance ratings. He’s the one sporting figure whose popularity has transcended and amended inferiority for a town assuming its lifeless times have vanished.

Rarely does any player fulfill his lifelong wishes near his hometown, let alone doing so while earning a historic contract. There’s now evidence that the Twins believe in richer deals, unlike pay cuts, cheaper bargains, or discounts. Signing Mauer to the richest contract in baseball history ever given to a catcher proves the Twins will open the wallet for the right players.

Up to this point, Mauer has played well and made a name for himself, guiding the Twins to new heights and soothing anxiety among fans. What we know so far is that he’s the inspirational voice inside the clubhouse, a well-respected individual with upper body strength and shrewd discipline at the plate.

It’s not such a bad idea to fantasize that this may actually be Minnesota’s year to explode during a tight and aggressive pennant race. With the ultimate signing and revamping, the Twins can make a surge this season.

It’s obvious that Mauer is happier than before earning superstar bucks, the kind of cash a valuable player receives whenever his productivity has an impact not only in the RBI, OBP, or home run columns but the fan population as well.

With an atrocious crisis poisoning the game, including a deadbeat commissioner with marbles missing in his brain, baseball needs an honest ambassador. What’s fascinating and very unique about Mauer is that he’s baseball’s undeniable role model and town hero, exceeding all expectations as a spectacular hitter.

On the flip side, though...if he disappoints, which I highly doubt, big bucks are considered nothing more than a failure.

Until then, Mauer has made it clear with his imposing swings, base running, and defensive effort behind the plate that he’s a huge money-maker. Normally, the Twins hold back investing millions on a glimmering player. But this time the organization took a risk and renamed themselves the Yankees of the offseason after giving Mauer the biggest contract in Twins history.

Longer than usual, his agent, Ron Shapiro, realized how valuable his name is within a rising franchise. Longer than normal, Mauer realized that he means much to a community, ready to cheer on postseason ecstasy.

As one of the coolest, most popular athletes in baseball, he has amassed three batting titles, two Gold Gloves and a lone MVP award. And has handled it all with class and dignity, rising to a higher level and forges popularity.

With that slew of accomplishments, all he needs now is a World Series title to balance out an inexplicable pursuit. Really now, he foreshadows that positivity still exists in baseball, eclipsing the everlasting performance-enhancing drug busts and accepts deep applause from the public, believing there’s still aspiration left. Last November he became the fifth MVP in Twins history.

This is a franchise planning accordingly, appeasing fans by holding on to Mauer for the next eight seasons and building around him. Very fittingly, the Twins will start off on a fresh note, set to open their new ballpark in April.

It’s obviously "The House That Mauer Built." Once this new contract expires, Mauer will be 35 years old, barely standing on his wobbly knees if he remains at catcher throughout that time.

Then again, maybe he’ll be a veteran able to voice wisdom to a younger club, with enough strength to still belt long shots and start as a designated hitter. As of now, good health and strong performances are essential, or else a huge contract extension turns into a disappointment and financial waste.

Like anywhere else, Minnesota is proud to enjoy a good time at the ballpark, but these fans also come to marvel at arguably the cleanest and most charismatic player in the game.

Every time he appears at the plate, fans are fueled by Mauer's capabilities to lace line drives and change the dynamic of the game. For whatever reason, the baseball society ignored his intangibles and mechanics, but at home there’s not a day progressing without him receiving warmth receptions from a feverish crowd.

After all, he’s a hometown icon.

And he’s home for good.