It was the best nine holes of golf I never played.
My son and I were playing last Sunday morning when we decided to forego the back nine and go watch the Twins play their 2018 season finale. It turned out to be a going-away party for Joe Mauer, and we are glad we were invited.
From the pregame festivities–when Joe’s bouncy, precocious, 5-year-old twin daughters joined him at first base with hugs and smiles and waves to the crowd; through the game when the fans gave him a standing ovation each time he came to bat; to the seventh inning when the Chicago White Sox players joined the fans for a standing ovation in what may have been his last at bat; and, finally, to the top of the ninth inning when, after a dramatic pause, Joe emerged from the dugout in full catcher’s gear to thank the fans and catch a single pitch in his last play of the season and, perhaps, of his 15-year career, it was one awesome party.
Fittingly, Joe legged out a double in his last at bat in the 7th, summoning yet another standing “o” from the 30,000 in attendance, and adding to his legend, as the Twins won 5-4.
But Joe is more than a baseball player, more than a pile of impressive statistics, more than a clubhouse leader. Joe is a Hall of Fame person. Not the Baseball Hall of Fame of which he will be a member someday, but the Hall of Fame for all people, for ordinary Joes, for those who live their daily lives trying to be the best person they can. He is a husband and a father, exemplary by all accounts. He and his wife, Maddie, are active in community charitable work. He is revered by all who played with him and against him, all who wrote about him or stuck a microphone in his face. Despite the celebrity that comes with being a star athlete, Joe has conducted his public life in a steady, dependable, likeable manner without a whiff of scandal. He has kept his private life just that, private.
Good for you, Joe. You deserved the party and any other party that comes your way.
Perhaps the next public one will be when you are inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, becoming the fourth player from Saint Paul, Minnesota, to have that honor. Dave Winfield (2001), Paul Molitor (2004) and Jack Morris (2018) have already been inducted. Joe is likely to become the next in 2023, his first year of eligibility.
What are the odds of a city the size of Saint Paul having four members in Baseball’s Hall of Fame? About 1 in 13. To keep those same odds Saint Paul needs to have another Hall of Famer Inductee by 2041. That person is playing baseball in the Saint Paul School system right now.