- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 23, 2010

FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Sitting a few feet from the people who inspired him to become one of the games best players, Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer became one of the game’s highest-paid ones as well.

The 26-year-old Mauer signed an $184 million, eight-year contract extension Monday at a news conference with his parents and his two brothers looking on in a meeting room at the Lee County Sports Complex.

He even used the same pen he signed his rookie contract with in 2001, when the Twins made him the No. 1 pick in the draft out of Cretin-Derham Hall High School in his native St. Paul, Minn.

The new deal should make Mauer a fixture with his hometown team through 2018.

Flanked by his agents, Ron Shapiro and Michael Maas to his right and Twins general manager Bill Smith and team president Dave St. Peter to his left, Mauer said one word immediately after signing.


“There are a lot of people in this room who I care a lot about,” Mauer said. “I’m kind of getting emotional. There are a lot of people who helped me get to this point.”

Mauer’s parents, Jake Mauer II and Teresa Mauer, were sitting in the front row. So were Joe’s older brothers, Bill and Jake Mauer III, who, like Joe, both played in the minor leagues for the Twins.

Jake Mauer III enters his first season as manager of the Class A Fort Myers Miracle.

“They’ve been here for me my whole life,” Joe Mauer said. “I wouldn’t be here without them.”

He said although he remained serious in getting a favorable deal, he never wanted to leave for another team in another city.

Mauer hit .365 with a career-best 28 home runs and 96 RBI last season after beginning the year on the disabled list while recovering from a back injury. He went on to win his second Gold Glove Award, his third American League batting title and his first Most Valuable Player Award.

“I love putting on a Minnesota Twins uniform,” Mauer said. “It’s a real thrill to be able to do this for the rest of my career. I have to tell everybody here I’ll give you everything I’ve got. My ultimate goal is to win a World Series. I’m looking forward to doing that. Thank you for coming, and let’s get back to work tomorrow, eh?”

Twins owner Jim Pohlad ended his overseas vacation and flew from Hong Kong to Tokyo to Minneapolis to Fort Myers within a one-day span in order to attend the news conference.

“I had hoped that we would get to this stage,” Pohlad said of signing Mauer. “We had high hopes. This was such a unique opportunity. He’s a hometown, MVP. We’re really happy to have him.”

The contract extension prevents the free-spending Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees from entering a bidding war for Mauer. He would have become a free agent after this season.

“What would have been wrong with a bidding war?” Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek said earlier in the day. “I’d do that if I were the GM. He’s one of the elite hitters, if not the elite hitter in the game right now.”

Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon wanted to thank the Twins for not letting Mauer get into the hands of his team’s AL East Division rivals, the Red Sox and Yankees.

“We can’t have him,” Maddon said. “We cannot afford that. For us and Toronto and Baltimore, we really appreciate that.”

Contract negotiations between the Twins and Mauer began about 60 days ago.

“I made it real clear when we started the process that this is where I wanted to be,” Mauer said. “I love my teammates, and I love our coaching staff. Once we started, I made it clear that this was my main goal. I wanted to stay in a Twins uniform, and I want to win. And we’re definitely headed in the right direction.”

The Twins already have a payroll approaching a franchise-record $100 million. Mauer’s contract puts him in the same category as New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

St. Peter said the team’s new regular season home, Target Field, will bring a new stream of revenue. But it would not change the team’s philosophy of developing homegrown talent.

“We’ve talked for a long time about the importance of Target Field,” St. Peter said. “It really puts the Minnesota Twins in a position to retain the talent that we work so hard to develop I the minor leagues.”

Asked if his team would now be able to emulate the Yankees, St. Peter responded. “We’re very happy being the Minnesota Twins,” he said. “We’re not out to become the other team that you mentioned.”

Shapiro, Mauer’s agent since his career began, also represented Cal Ripken Jr. and the late Kirby Puckett, both of whom stayed with the teams that developed them.

“It’s a happy day in baseball,” Shapiro said. “It’s a happy day when a player can remain a part of the community and the team that nurtured him. It’s a tough example to follow, because I have met few people in my entire experience that have the value system that this young man has.”

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