Joe Mauer decides to retire after 15 seasons with Twins

Joe Mauer will make official what we all have expected since he emerged from the home dugout in catcher’s gear to catch one pitch in the ninth inning of the Twins’ regular-season finale in September. The St. Paul native is going to retire from baseball after 15 seasons.

The Star Tribune published a story on its website that said the 35-year-old Mauer will make the announcement in a full-page ad in Sunday’s paper. The Twins then announced that they will hold a Mauer retirement press conference at 11 a.m. Monday at Target Field.

“After much consideration I have decided to retire from playing baseball,” he wrote in his retirement announcement. “The decision came down to my health and my family. The risk of concussion is always there, and I was reminded of that this season after missing over 30 games as a result of diving for a foul ball.

“Thank you, Minnesota Twins, and thank you, fans, for making my career as special and memorable as it was. Because of you I can leave the game I love with a full and grateful heart.”

Mauer, the first pick by the Twins in the Major League draft in 2001, began his major league career in 2004 and established himself as one of the best hitting catchers in big-league history. He was selected to six American League All-Star teams as a catcher, won three Gold Gloves and is the only catcher to win three batting titles.

He won the American League MVP in 2009 after hitting an AL-leading .365 with 28 home runs and 96 RBIs in 134 games. Mauer hit .323/.405/.468 with 105 home runs and 634 RBIs in 10 seasons as a catcher but playing the position took a toll on his body and concussions forced him to move to first base in 2014.

Mauer spent his last five seasons as a first baseman, but was not nearly as productive at the plate as he had been before the concussion issues. He hit .278/.359/.388 with 38 home runs and 289 RBIs from 2014 through 2018.

The 2018 season marked the final one of the eight-year, $184 million contract he signed in 2010. Mauer refused to say throughout the season if this would be his final year. Mauer’s family, however, was growing, he and his wife, Maddie, are expecting their third child this month, and Mauer also suffered another concussion in May when he fell while chasing a foul pop-up in a game at Anaheim. Mauer ended up missing 25 games because of that concussion.

It became difficult to believe that Mauer was going to return after the Twins’ last game of the season against the White Sox on Sept. 30 at Target Field. In what seemed like  the perfect send off, the Twins had Mauer’s 5-year-old twin daughters surprise him at first base before the game.

Twins fans, some of whom had turned on Mauer in recent seasons, applauded each of his at-bats that day and then Mauer came out to catch one ninth-inning pitch that reliever Matt Belisle threw to Yoan Moncada. Moncada had agreed not to swing as part of the deal, and Mauer acknowledged it would be fitting to wear his catching equipment one last time. The 30,144 stood and cheered and there were many tears shed.

An emotional Mauer talked afterward about how special that day had been, but refused to say if that would be his last game. The Twins’ brass made it clear that Mauer would make the call on his future and no one else.

He has now made that call. After 15 seasons, all spent with the Twins, his playing career is finished.