Mauer's off-field work even more impressive

Mauer's off-field work even more impressive

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins catcher Joe Mauer has gained national attention this season with the MVP-caliber year he's been putting together on the field.

But in the Twin Cities, the catcher has long been a fixture in the spotlight. Having been born and raised in St. Paul, Mauer has been in the headlines since he was a multi-sport star at local Cretin-Derham High School.

Nearly all of the focus has been on Mauer's tremendous accomplishments in uniform. Yet it's what Mauer has been able to do for his hometown community in his time away from the game that means the most to him.

"I think it's probably a little bit more important for me to get involved since I grew up here," Mauer said. "We live and play here as big league ballplayers. We're in a position where we can do a lot of good in the community and it's a good thing to be in that position and help. I think it's probably a little bit more special for me since this is my hometown."

And it's the impact that he's able to have in his hometown community that's made Mauer this year's Twins nominee for The Roberto Clemente Award, presented by Chevrolet.

The award recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team. It is named in honor of the former Pirates outfielder, whose spirit and goodwill will always be remembered. Clemente died in a plane crash while attempting to transport relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua on Dec. 31, 1972.

"To be mentioned in the same category as Roberto Clemente, I mean what can you say about the guy?" Mauer said. "It's a pretty neat award and I'm honored to be up for that."

Considering that Mauer shies away from any kind of attention placed on him for his on-the-field accomplishments, it's no surprise that most of his charitable work is done outside the spotlight.

Mauer's charity of choice is the "Friends of St. Paul Baseball," which is an organization that helps improve the baseball facilities for youth in St. Paul. Mauer, with help from his family, hosts an annual golf tournament fundraiser and has helped raise more than $30,000 for the charity.

The Twins catcher also acts as a spokesman for a number of organizations, including the Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota. In addition to taping public service announcements for the coalition of youth mentoring groups, Mauer also hosts more than 2,000 mentors and mentees at one game each season. With the help of Qwest, $100 is donated to the Mentoring Partnership on Mauer's behalf for each one of his RBIs this season.

Mauer is a spokesman and mentor for the MLB Players Association's Action Team as well. In partnership with Volunteers of America, the Action Team recruits high school students to help encourage others to volunteer in their community and Mauer meets with local Action Team members to help them on their outreach. And Mauer is also the Twins' player representative for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. He helps to spearhead the team's efforts for the MLB Home Run Challenge which raises funds to fight prostate cancer.

In addition to his work as a mentor and spokesman, Mauer has established a community ticket program called Mauer's Minnies, which provides tickets to thousands of economically disadvantaged youth from the Twin Cities. Since 2005, nearly 25,000 kids and their families have attended a Twins game for free thanks to Mauer's contributions.

Fans can participate in the selection process of the overall winner of The Roberto Clemente Award now through Oct. 4. The fan ballot winner will be tallied as one vote among those cast by a special selection panel of baseball dignitaries and media members. The panel includes MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and Vera Clemente, widow of the Pirates' Hall of Fame right fielder whose spirit and goodwill always will be remembered.

Voting fans also will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to the 2009 World Series, when the national winner of the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevy will be announced.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.