Thank you, Twins fans
Dear Twins Territory: After much consideration, I have decided to retire from playing baseball. This decision did not come easily as baseball always has been, and always will be, one of my greatest passions. The last few months of this season were very emotional for me and I wanted to take time to separate some of those emotions and think with a clear frame of mind.
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. That’s all it took this time around and it was all I needed to bring me back to the struggles I faced in 2013. The concussion I experienced that season not only changed my life professionally with a move to first base, but changed me personally as well. I am soon to be a father of three and I find myself thinking about my future health and its impact more than I had years ago. People always told me how much things change when you become a parent, and they were right. After my concussion this season, I found myself wondering about “what if” situations. If I were to continue playing this game, I would want to do so without reservation and I no longer feel that is possible.
There is a part of me that will always want to compete, but I have reached a point where my desire to play is outweighed by the possibility of another injury. Experiencing a concussion looks different for everyone, but my personal experienced forced me to look beyond baseball at what is best for me as a husband and father.
As each day of this season passed and the end of my contract became more of a reality, I began to reflect on all that has happened over the years as well as what the future might look like. The thought of retiring, even with my health-related concerns, was still a very difficult and emotional subject for me. Leading up to the last day of the season, I talked with several people who I respect in this game and in my life and I thought about all angles of this decision. I also turned to God and prayed for clarity and direction.
The answer I was searching for came into sharper focus during my last game, a game I will never forget and a day where I felt like everything I was questioning started to become clear. As I stood on the field in my catcher’s gear, something I never thought would be possible again, I realized in that moment that this is how I want to finish my career. I wanted to finish on my home field in front of our amazing fans, my family, my friends, my teammates,and the organization that means so much to me. Being able to do that for a brief moment as a catcher, made that day even more incredible than I could have imagined.
That day also had me reflecting on how baseball is about so much more than winning or losing. It’s about so much more than stats and personal accolades. For me, it’s about the life lessons I have learned along the way. It’s about the struggles and triumphs that put things into perspective, and about all of the people I have met who have helped mold me into the person I am today.
I left the stadium after that game with 18 years worth of amazing memories playing for a team and organization that has become family, and to me that is worth more than I can express. I will always be grateful to the Twins and to the fans for their love and support all these years. I walked into the clubhouse every day with pride and never once took for granted the opportunity to put on that uniform. I have never wavered that playing for this team was exactly where I wanted to be.
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.
Joe Mauer recently retired from the Minnesota Twins, where he spent his entire 15-year pro baseball career. The St. Paul native was the 2009 American League MVP.