Teammates remember Hall of Famer Joe Mauer’s time in Fort Myers

Author: Zach Oliveri
Published: Updated:

With the words “Joe Mauer, welcome to Cooperstown,” the legendary Minnesota Twins catcher reaches baseball immortality as a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Mauer spent his entire 15 year career with his hometown Twins. But Fort Myers is part of Mauer’s journey to Cooperstown. He played for the Fort Myers Miracle, the Twins minor league team, in 2003.

“He didn’t swing the bat very often,” Twins third base coach Tommy Watkins said. “I used to joke with his brother. Like Jake, why does he never swing? He’s like probably because they’re not gonna strike him out. You what I mean, he was that confident.”

Former Riverdale High School standout and current Twins third base coach Tommy Watkins played with Mauer that season. He recognized Mauer’s talent, especially behind the plate.

“I took off like I was going to steal on him. And he nice and easy threw the ball to second base. And he hit me with one of these,” Watkins said while waving his pointer finger.

Fort Myers was also the only Spring Training home Mauer knew. It was here when former Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer met his longtime teammate.

“It was someone who fit in from day one even as an 18, 19 year old kid, which is not an easy thing to do to fit in and look like you belong in a Major League clubhouse at that age,” Cuddyer said.

Mauer’s resume is impressive. He’s the only catcher with at least 2,000 hits, won the American League MVP in 2009 and won three batting titles, which is the most by a catcher.

But what made Mauer beloved by Twins fans, he was their hometown kid.

“Somebody from his family in the stands every day meant a lot to him,” Cuddyer said. “I’m sure he was very prideful of the fact that he got to take the field with the Twins across his chest.”

And the Twins are prideful of Mauer as his No. 7 is retired and displayed in the outfield at Hammond Stadium.

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