This is an article from the July 19, 2010 issue
TWINS FRANCHISE PLAYER
The catcher and former All-America quarterback at Cretin-Derham Hall High in St. Paul just made his fourth All-Star team.
Dan Patrick:You signed an eight-year, $184 million deal with Minnesota in March. Did you understand what LeBron James was thinking, and how difficult would it be for you to leave your hometown team?
Joe Mauer: I'm flattered to be put in that same group [as LeBron]. We did have similar situations. He opted to get to free agency. I was still a year away. I knew I'd be happy at home. A big part of that, too, was the chance of winning. I truly believe we can win in Minnesota, and there's nothing more I want to do than to bring a World Series ring back to the Twin Cities. I could understand his decision, but not the way it all went about. But he had to do what he thought was best for him and his career, and I wish him the best of luck.
DP:I hear you're an aspiring rapper. Is that true? Do you have a studio in your house?
JM: [Laughs] Definitely not. It's a funny story. A couple years back, down at spring training we had this team barbecue. I just wanted to get a couple laughs out of the guys and have a good time, so I threw a couple songs on there that I had made in the off-season. It was pretty funny.
DP:What were the songs?
JM: Well, they're just remakes to some other rap songs that were out there at the time. I haven't done that in a long time, and I hope they never get out. I think I'm going to delete them when I get home.
DP:Did you do any Vanilla Ice?
JM: No. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, a couple of those. That's what I was doing. The guys had a good time with it, for sure.
DP:Were you sipping on gin and juice?
JM: [Laughs] I guess you could say that.
DP:Is hitting .400 possible, and would you have to play another position to make a run at it?
JM: I never say it's impossible. It's a lot tougher on guys nowadays. As a middle-of-the-order hitter, you're probably going to face three or four different pitchers every night. Back in the day, you might face one guy. It makes it a lot tougher on the hitter. I know there's a reason why it hasn't been done for a long time. I'll never say never, but it's going to be a tough thing to do.
DP:If you change positions, what would you play?
JM: As long as I can be in that lineup, I don't care where I play. I signed to play catcher, and hopefully I can play catcher for a long time. I love catching. I love being in the middle of everything. You're trying to get that pitcher through the game.
DP:How far could you throw a football right now?
JM: Right now? I don't know. I'd probably be flopping all over the place. I always tell everybody, Give me two weeks and I'll get back to where I need to get back to.
DP:If I gave you two weeks, how far are we talking?
JM: Back in high school, I could throw it probably around 70 yards. But that was a long time ago.
DP:Are you the second-best quarterback in Minnesota?
JM: [Laughs] I don't know about that. I don't know. I hope [Brett Favre] comes back. He definitely was fun to watch, and I hope he comes back and plays a few more years.
• Give 'Em Gas
Cy Young Award winner Orel Hershiser said that Stephen Strasburg's repertoire mixed the best of Nolan Ryan, Dwight Gooden, Bert Blyleven and Johan Santana. But he also told me that the Nationals rookie (above) shouldn't break out all of his weapons so quickly. "I think he can be effectively wild and not go to the secondary pitches so soon," Hershiser said. "You can say, 'Fastball,' for two or three innings. 'Try to hit it.' He doesn't need to throw his changeup the second pitch of the game."
• Play Pals
Not everyone has been quick to criticize LeBron James for the manner in which he left Cleveland (page 38). Reggie Jackson, who knows a thing or two about superstardom and free agency, told me, "I'm not offended at all that he did that." Reggie also said he would have loved to have played with his friends—even Jim Rice, who played for the hated Red Sox when Jackson was with the Yankees.
• Line of the week
NASCAR driver Tony Stewart explained what happened when he tried driving with his iPod during a test session: "It was more of a distraction than anything, so it didn't work out. I found that it was very hard to concentrate with Led Zeppelin on."
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts at danpatrick.com/interviews
1. Cal Ripken Jr. discusses a possible return to baseball.
2. Duke's Kyle Singler on guarding LeBron at summer camp.
THE FINE PRINT: This year's World Cup broke the record for most ties, previously set on Father's Day 1999 at Shawn Kemp's house.