Before Joe Mauer's father died last week, he was able to hear of one more baseball accomplishment from his youngest son: his impending induction into the Twins Hall of Fame.
Twins legend Rod Carew called Mauer a couple weeks ago to share the news, though the Twins didn't announce it publicly until Friday. Jake Mauer, Joe's father, died Jan. 17 at age 66 after battling lung cancer and LEMS, a rare disorder that affects the muscles.
Joe Mauer will officially enter the Twins Hall of Fame on Aug. 5 as its 38th member. Mauer, 39, is a St. Paul native who was the No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft. He played his entire 15-year MLB career with the Twins, becoming a six-time All Star and the only catcher in league history to win three batting titles.
He was also the 2009 American League MVP and won three Gold Gloves and five Silver Sluggers before retiring following the 2018 season as a first baseman, having switched in 2014 after struggling with concussions. His career average was .306, and the Twins retired his No. 7 in 2019.
"It's not just about what he did on the field, which is tremendous," said Derek Falvey, the Twins president of baseball operations, during a TwinsFest event at Target Field. "But it's who he is as a person and who he is as an ambassador for the Twin Cities, for Minnesota, for Twins baseball and hopefully for his whole family."
A 70-member panel of writers, broadcasters and team-affiliated personnel votes for the Twins Hall of Fame. He will be eligible for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame next year.
"In my mind," Twins President Dave St. Peter said, "this is just a pit stop Hall of Fame induction for Joe on his way to Cooperstown."
The Twins' total attendance last season was 1,801,128, ranking 20th of 30 MLB teams and marking the lowest total since Target Field opened in 2010, minus the pandemic-impacted years. But St. Peter said he anticipates selling more than 2 million tickets in 2023, including the equivalent of 11,000 season-ticket holders.
Tickets are on sale now, but there are also two new season-ticket packages available starting next week. The "Legends Landing" located in the left field corner is all-inclusive with unlimited food and beverage. The "Business to Baseball" is geared toward business entertainment, featuring Delta Sky 360 Club seats for 12 weekday day games throughout the season.
Those that do come to games this season will see a larger Jumbotron, which was mid-installation Friday. In fact, all of the signage and video boards are being replaced or expanded, partly to reflect the team's new branding.
The Twins have also tweaked the Minnie and Paul celebration sign, adding "Win! Twins" verbiage and updating the technology, including a mechanical handshake between the two mascots. They also added a 12-foot revolving baseball medallion on the right field tower to "serve as a victory symbol for our franchise, but more importantly, it will also serve in our mind as a beacon to the city for Target Field for downtown and for all fans," per St. Peter.
The Twins' already fraught TV situation endured another challenge this week, as news broke that the owners of Bally Sports North will likely enter bankruptcy.
The situation around Diamond Sports Group, a subsidiary of Sinclair that controls 21 regional sports networks, shouldn't impact broadcasting of the upcoming season, though.
"I have every reason to believe that our games will be produced and aired on Bally Sports North as scheduled in 2023. That's our expectation, that's my belief," St. Peter said. "I'm not at liberty to get into where we are with negotiations, and I'm not privy to where Bally's is relative to their financial situation.
"We've had a lot of conversations, as have all the other Bally clubs in major league production. And we've been assured that the production of our games, the distribution of our games, those things at this point are not in jeopardy."
St. Peter did say he had "significant concerns" about the bankruptcy and is following it closely, as the parties are in contract negotiations now. The Twins are exploring alternatives that involve streaming, as many cord-cutter Twins fans without cable or satellite subscriptions haven't been able to watch the games in recent years, with the exception of DirectTV Stream and now Google TV.
"I look forward to a day where fans will be able to access any game, anywhere," St. Peter said. "If we deal with some of the arcane blackout rules, we can ensure that if a fan wants to stream, they have access. If a fan wants to buy cable, they have access. I think we're heading toward that. The question is, when does that day arrive? Is it as soon as 23, is it 24 or 25? In my mind, the sooner the better."
A heads up
One person outside the Twins' baseball department knew about the Luis Arraez trade before anyone else: Heather Rajeski, the team's promotions manager.
"I gave Heather a heads-up that she might need to change our Bat Day," during which the team planned to give away 5,000 wooden bats stamped with Luis Arraez's name and league-leading .316 batting average, said St. Peter. "She looked at me cross-eyed."
Have no fear, though — after a quick call to the manufacturer, the Twins announced that Carlos Correa Bat Day has now been scheduled for that same April 23 game. "Fortunately, they were not in production yet," St. Peter said. "We didn't have to take a Sharpie [pen] to them."