We interviewed Minnesota Twins All-Star catcher Joe Mauer when he was in Manhattan at the Sony Style Store recently.
Many consider you to be the best all-around catcher of all time, both defensively and offensively. With three Gold Gloves and three batting titles, does all this fame put added pressure on you when you’re playing now? They’re expecting to see the best when they come to see you.
I guess so. I think I probably put the most pressure on myself. I work really hard at what I do. I practice a lot. If I don’t do well, I kind of put pressure on myself. I guess I have a lot of confidence because I put in the work, and I feel comfortable when I go out there. I always try to do my best, and at the end of the day it’s really all you can ask.
At 6-feet, 5-inches, you are very tall. It would seem tough to play catcher’s position, always squatting behind home plate.
I guess I have a little further to bend down. I don’t know, I guess that could be a question maybe I could answer better over time. I’m starting my eighth season, and I’m still catching, and things are going pretty well and hopefully I could stay out of the training room, stay healthy and continue to catch for awhile.
Why did you turn down the football scholarship that Florida State University had offered you?
I guess football really came into play when I was in high school, and a lot of colleges were coming after me to come to their school. I always wanted to play in the big leagues, ever since I was little. It was a tough decision at the time, because I might have been able to do both, but I’m glad I gave baseball my best shot.
In your last contract negotiations, you had the opportunity to play for another team for a lot more money. What made you stay with Minnesota?
I think what it came down to is just being happy. I’m happy in Minnesota. I think the chance of winning was a big component, I guess. I feel that we could win in Minnesota, and maybe I’ll have my family and friends there supporting, because that’s what they do. We thought about it a little bit, I’m happy in Minnesota, definitely happy that I’m going to be there for awhile.
Do you get to call your own game, and do you enjoy it?
I do. That’s probably my favorite thing about catching is working with the pitcher. I’m trying to figure out ways to get the other guys out. That side of it is probably the most fun for me. Like I said, I want to do that as long as I can.
Were you always a catcher?
I played a lot of different positions growing up. I played shortstop a lot, I didn’t start catching a whole lot regularly until I got to high school. As far as the catcher, watching the catcher, I always like to watch Ivan Rodriguez. Once I got a little bit older, he was kind of the catcher that everybody was watching, I guess. Mike Piazza, guys like that. But I always admired people that played the game hard, played the game the right way.
If you had a son, would you encourage him to be a baseball player?
Yeah, I would encourage him . . . I guess so. I would like him to be a baseball player, but whatever he chooses, I would support him in that. Hopefully he’ll like baseball.
How did it feel to get your 1,000th major league hit and 200th double?
It was pretty cool. I didn’t even know I was approaching that. And they called time, and they threw the ball out. I didn’t really know what was going on until I came back to the dugout. It was kind of a neat thing because I got my 1,000th hit and my 200th double in the same game, and after the game — I didn’t know this — my clubhouse manager went and got the base. We were actually in Chicago. So I got a base with my 1,000 hits and 200 doubles. So hopefully I could get a couple more bases for other milestones later in my career.
Have you ever been injured?
Well, for one, I had surgery on my knee, which I needed to do. I was a little banged up last year. Got a lot of rest; it’s a long year, and you have to let your body rest and recover. And I think I did a good job at that. So I’m looking forward to getting started again. Get back on spring training.
How do you stay in great shape?
One of the things I really like to do is I do a lot of pool workouts. I get in the water. You know catching, you have a lot of power on your knees, your joints and things like that. And when you get in the water, it takes a lot of your body weight off. So you’re able to work out pretty hard and without the stress. I always like to get in the water and do different things in there.
How do you feel about baseball players using steroids?
Well, that’s a tough question. Obviously I don’t believe in using steroids, anything like that. It’s a tough thing to determine who did or who didn’t. But I will say that lately baseball has done a great job for eliminating that. I’ve been in the big leagues seven years. It will be my eighth season, and we’ve had drug tests in my whole career. So players nowadays, it’s pretty tough to do that stuff. I think baseball’s done a great job of cleaning the game up. You never know what happened in the past. It’s sad to hear some of the stories, but baseball’s moving forward, and I think it’s in a very good place right now.
If you didn’t go pro in baseball, what would you have done?
Good question... I always wanted to own my own sporting goods store. I would probably be doing that.
Do you have any other hobbies in sports?
Yeah, I like to play golf a lot in the off season. We don’t get to a whole lot during the summer because they keep us so busy. But I like to play golf and do different things like that.
What advice do you have for any child that wants to become a pro athlete?
For me, it’s just to have fun. When I was younger, I played all three sports growing up, and I played them all the way till I was 18 years old. And I see a lot of kids specializing on one particular thing at a really young age. I would just encourage them to play, have fun and do as many different things as you can, because I really didn’t know anything about football until I got into high school. And I found out I could have went to college and played football. So if I just specialized in baseball, I would have never had that opportunity. I would play as much as I can, and figure out what you like.