"They've just been there for me my whole life, and I wouldn't be here without them," he said.A three-sport athlete who was considered one of the best prep quarterbacks in the country, Mauer has been a star in the Twin Cities since before he even signed that first contract. But in his six seasons with the Twins, his popularity has grown along with the success he's had on the field. Mauer, who will turn 27 on April 19, is coming off the best season of his career, in which he batted .365 with a career-best 28 home runs and 96 RBIs after missing the first month of the season because of a lower back injury. He went on to win his second Gold Glove Award, his third American League batting title and his first AL MVP Award. But his impact in Minnesota is about more than just his on-field success. His local roots have made him a particularly active participant in charitable efforts in the community. So for the Twins, it was never a question of if they wanted to get a deal done with their All-Star. "It means a lot to our organization, and it would mean a lot to any of the baseball clubs," Twins CEO Jim Pohlad said. "To have a home-grown MVP who is just a fantastic person ... any team would want to be in our position and even be challenged by trying to sign him, because it's just such a unique opportunity. For us to accomplish it is just a great thing for our organization and, hopefully, for Joe." Not much was known about the contract negotiations, as both sides chose to conduct their business in private. But while the Twins expressed interest in an extension a year ago, the first real offer was not made until about 60 days ago, according to Mauer's agent, Ron Shapiro. From there the negotiations went relatively smoothly, without any real impasses. "It was a progression," Shapiro said. "There were some difficult moments, where we came in with a proposal that the club didn't like and they countered, but the bottom line is, it was an absolute progression during that 60-day period." Shapiro also represented Cal Ripken Jr. and the late Kirby Puckett, both of whom stayed with the teams that developed them. Mauer's desire to stay with one club was the same, and it's why neither he nor general manager Bill Smith ever really doubted that a deal would get done. "We have always maintained that when you get star players, you want to try to keep them," Smith said. "If those star players really want to stay in Minnesota, we'll find a way to do it. A few years ago, Michael Cuddyer, Joe Nathan and Justin Morneau all spoke up and said they wanted to stay in the Twins organization, and we were able to get it done. We're thrilled today to add Joe Mauer to that list." Relatively quiet and modest, Mauer isn't one to seek the spotlight, although his success and his recent contract with IMG, a well-known sports marketing firm, have made him a more prominent figure on the national stage this past offseason. And Mauer wasn't interested in attention when it came to his contract, either. There has been talk of what he could have received if he had hit the open market after this season. Both the Red Sox and Yankees are expected to be in the hunt for a catcher, and some estimated that Mauer's annual salary could have reached $30 million had he chosen to explore free agency. Mauer, who will be 35 when this contract runs outs, admitted to being briefly curious about free agency. But when he talked to players who left Minnesota after starting their careers there -- such as LaTroy Hawkins, Jacque Jones and Corey Koskie -- they all reiterated that there was something special about the Twins organization.
And in the end, Mauer got everything he could have asked for -- a lucrative contract and the ability to remain with his hometown team."When it comes down to it, how much [money] do you really need?" he said. "Really, for me, it's being happy, and I'm definitely happy here." Asked about signing the fourth-largest contract in Major League history and whether there will be additional pressure because of it, Mauer shrugged it off and said that everyone around him will make sure that it doesn't affect him -- something that Morneau appeared to do when he grabbed a microphone and asked what to him was the most important question now that the contract has been signed. "Does this mean you're going to buy dinner now?" Morneau said. Mauer laughed and later joked that buying dinner would be the first thing he'd do with his new money to get Morneau "off my back." Mauer also made a point to send a special message to his grandfather, Jake Mauer Sr., who was unable to attend the news conference after recently undergoing surgery. Mauer and Shapiro visited the senior Mauer on Sunday night to deliver the good news in person. To Shapiro, the reaction they got summed up why seeing Mauer stay in a Twins uniform seemed to be the only logical choice. "He looked across at us, and I said, 'How do you feel, Grandpa?' " Shapiro said. "He said, 'This is the happiest day of my life. I had tears in my eyes today, and I hadn't done that in a long time.' That's the ultimate feeling."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.