Derek Falvey saw a video recently of Joe Mauer, at age 3, swinging a bat. Something looked familiar to the Twins chief baseball officer.
“I think it was exactly the same,” Falvey said, laughing.
Twins fans can probably still see that swing in their mind’s eye. A smooth, compact swing executed with assembly-line repetitiveness. From his rookie season to Year 15, Mauer’s stroke looked identical.
Former Cretin-Derham Hall coach Jim O’Neill first saw Mauer’s swing when he was in fifth grade. Same exact swing, O’Neill said.
“It started in the backyard with Wiffle ball,” said Mauer’s older brother, Jake. “I don’t think there was ever a swing overhaul.”
Mauer’s career can be cataloged by distinctive markers. His batting titles, his MVP season, his injuries, his position change and his contract.
His swing deserves a chapter, too. Falvey said it’s “as pretty as they come.”
“There was a smoothness to it and calmness to the way his bat comes through the zone,” he said. “I know this isn’t physically possible, but it felt like he could adjust after the swing was going to manipulate the barrel of the bat.”
Hitting mechanics involve a series of movements working in concert. Mauer made the process look effortless.
“It’s just natural,” Jake Mauer said. “It wasn’t anything that was created by a hitting guru.”
Well, not exactly. His swing was sharpened on a contraption built by his father. The device had connected pipes that would drop a ball into the hitting zone, forcing Mauer to have a compact swing and no excess movement. The invention later became known as “Mauer Quickswing.”
“I think that had an awful lot to do, if not everything to do, with the kind of hitter he turned out to be,” O’Neill said.
Mauer’s swing produced many line drives to the opposite field. He remained committed — or stubborn, in some people’s opinion — to that swing in the face of criticism that he didn’t hit enough home runs.
“That was his best trait — he was always trying to be himself,” Jake said. “He’s not going to be who everybody wants him to be. He’s going to be who he wants to be. I think it worked out pretty good.”
O’Neill recalled a young MLB scout who visited Cretin-Derham Hall during Mauer’s senior season. The Raiders still had a state playoff game after the Twins drafted Mauer No. 1 overall in 2001.
The scout, who worked for another team, returned after the draft to watch Mauer take batting practice.
“I said ‘What are you doing? The draft’s over,’ ” O’Neill said. “He said, ‘If I ever see a high school kid with this kind of swing, I’ve got to remember because I’m going after him.’ ”
The Twins will retire Joe Mauer’s No. 7 before Saturday night’s game against Kansas City. The ceremony begins at 6 p.m.
• Mauer, 36, played 15 seasons for the Twins. He is the only catcher to win three batting titles. He was the AL MVP in 2009 and a six-time All-Star who won three Gold Gloves as a catcher before moving to first base in 2013 because of concussions. He retired after last season.
• Hall of Famers Jim Thome, Paul Molitor, Rod Carew, Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris will attend, with more than 25 other Twins alumni.
• Other Twins retired numbers are Harmon Killebrew (3), Tony Oliva (6), Tom Kelly (10), Kent Hrbek (14), Rod Carew (29), Bert Blyleven (28), Kirby Puckett (34). Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 is retired across Major League Baseball.
• Gov. Walz declared Saturday “Joe Mauer Day” in Minnesota.