MLB Preview: Joe Mauer

The ex-MVP and PlayStation cover boy is the anti-Lebron. 

With the exception of a certain resident of South Beach, it’s every kid’s dream to play for his hometown team. Still, when Twins catcher JOE MAUER signed an eight-year extension to stay in Minnesota, it was a breath of fresh air. Here the ex-MVP, PlayStation cover boy, and first backstop to win three batting titles talks about the year ahead and the perks of staying put.

You’re the first player to be on the cover of Sony Playstation baseball two years in a row.

I’m definitely honored. I was pleasantly surprised to be on the cover again.

Apparently there is no cover jinx for you and the Twins.

I don’t think so. We had a pretty good season last year. Hopefully we can go further this season.

No catcher had ever won three batting titles until you came along. 

How do you explain it?

It’s definitely humbling. A lot of people talk about the batting titles but what gets me is that I’ve been able to do something no on has ever done in the game, which is amazing considering how long and rich the tradition of this game is. But I’m not satisfied. I want to get better.

How can you improve?

I want to get to the World Series and win it. That’s any big leaguer’s ultimate goal. I remember what it was like growing up in Minneapolis and watching the parades in ’87 and ’91. I would love to see how excited the Minnesota fans would be, myself included! I want to get the World Series this year.

If the Twins get to the World Series and face the Colorado Rockies, will they call it the Fall Classic or the Winter Classic?

(laughs) I could care less how cold it is [in late October] if I’m playing in the World Series. I know fans in Minnesota wouldn’t care if it was 10 degrees. We’re talking about the World Series!

You excelled in basketball, baseball and football. Why’d you go with baseball?

It’s something I’ve always enjoyed. Basketball was my favorite when I was younger but as I got older I fell in love with baseball.

But you were the high school football player of the year! You mastered three sports…

But the thing is that I loved playing all of them. The other sports helped me with baseball. I was put in different situations, adverse situations. I learned about teamwork.

You were always the quarterback and not just in football. You were the point guard and basketball and you’ve always been the catcher in baseball. In other words, you’ve always been in control of the game and the tempo.

Well, I’ve always liked being in charge. I’ve always enjoyed having that responsibility, and I’ve earned my teammates trust in whatever sport I played.

After signing your $184 million extension, It seems like you’ll be a Twin for the rest of your career. How cool is that?

This is where I always wanted to play ball. I grew up a Twins fan, and to have your parents and grandparents able to see your home games is incredible. But it’s more than just wanting to play for the franchise you grew up with. I do believe that we can win a World Series in Minnesota. Nothing would make me happier.

You’ve dabbled in hip-hop. Are you following in Allen Iverson’s footsteps?

Absolutely not! I made a couple of songs a few years back just to get a rise out of the guys. We have a bullpen BBQ in spring training. I’ve done some songs for that but I’m not serious about it.

Can you or anyone hit .400?

I’ll never say never but it doesn’t look too good. The game has changed so much with the (relief) specialists. Back in the day, guys faced the starter four or five times, whereas I might see four different pitchers. It’s tougher. There’s a reason nobody has hit .400 for a long time. That’s tough to do.

Is it true that you were banned from t-ball at four because you hit the ball too hard?

Yes. I have two brothers who are three, four years older than me. I had to find ways to compete with them at a young age. So I was further along than a lot of kids my age when I started playing t-ball. I jumped up to coach pitch and I think I jumped three levels [at four].

Sometimes it seems as if you should move up to another level along with Rivera, Roy Halladay, Josh Hamilton, Tim Lincecumand Albert Pujols.

Those guys are all great. Roy Halladay should be moved up another level. But as for me, I think major league baseball is hard enough. I’m just going to try to do the best I can because it’s really challenging.

Is there more pressure facing Mariano Rivera in the playoffs or dating Miss USA?

(laughs) Facing Mariano Rivera.

Catch Joe Mauer and the Twins kick off the 2011 season against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 1.