"I enjoyed working with the young kids in the GCL, but when I heard there was an opportunity [in Fort Myers], I was definitely interested," said Jake Mauer, who turns 31 in December. "Throughout the whole system, the emphasis is on development first and winning second. The two things go hand-in-hand. So while I'm moving up to a faster game, the philosophy remains the same -- to teach young men to be the best players they can be as they move through the levels, hopefully all the way to Minnesota."
Mauer replaces Jeff Smith, who received a promotion to Double-A New Britain after taking the Miracle to the Florida State League Finals in '09. The two men share the distinction of being the only managers in team history who had previously suited up for the Miracle as players.
Mauer, a 23rd-round pick in the 2001 Draft, appeared in 128 games for the club over the course of the '03 and '05 campaigns. He retired in 2005 after suffering an elbow injury and immediately began his coaching career.
"When I was playing, I always thought that I'd like to be a coach some day," said Mauer, who was teammates with brother Joe at Rookie-level Elizabethton in 2001 and Fort Myers in 2003. "But if you had told me [in 2003] that seven years later I'd be managing the team, I'd have told you that you were crazy.
"But I had an arm injury, certain things happened and here I am," Mauer added. "I've enjoyed it to this point and look forward to the challenges."
These challenges will be lessened somewhat by the presence of a veteran coaching staff. Hitting coach Jim Dwyer will be returning for his fifth season with the Miracle (and 14th within the Twins organization), while pitching coach Steve Mintz will be back for his second with the club and seventh overall.
"[Dywer] was a hitting coach when I was a player, so I've known him for almost 10 years now," Maure said. "And since he's been in the league for a little while, he has a very good understanding of what different organizations will try to do in terms of how they'll approach our hitters. My brother, Billy, (who was signed by the Twins as an undrafted free agent in 2003) worked with Steve in the GCL. He did a fantastic job with the staff last year and is another guy who will be valuable as far as his knowledge of the game and of the league."
Florida in the summer might not seem like a ideal situation for a Minnesota native, but Mauer said he has gotten used to the environment.
"This will be my fifth year in Florida, and it's going to sound funny but I've really gotten used to the heat," said Mauer, who makes his offseason home in St. Paul with his wife and one-year-old daughter. "In a way, it's similar to winter in Minnesota. There, you go outside and know it's going to be cold. Here, you know it's going to be hot. It's just a matter of getting your body acclimated. It's well known around town that when the sun goes down, there's nothing better than going to Hammond Stadium and taking in a game.
"It's a Major League Spring Training facility, like all the facilities in the [Florida State] league, and you can't ask for more than that," he said.
But no matter how content Mauer may be for now, it's only natural to wonder what the future might hold. Could the Mauer brothers one day find themselves sitting side by side in the Twins dugout?
"It's not over yet, that dream of getting to the big leagues. But it's not something I could ever put a timetable on," said Mauer. "It would be incredible to work at that level, and if my brother was there and part of it as well, that would make it even more special."
For now, however, the focus is on 2010.
"I'm just grateful that I've been given the chance to make my own way and go my own route," said Mauer. "I'm glad that the Twins are keeping me around because they find value in what I do, and not just because of my last name."