MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s something kids grow up dreaming about, to someday play for their favorite team. That dream was reality for Minnesota Twins legend Joe Mauer.

After 15 seasons, the boy from St. Paul announced his retirement. A role model for young fans, Mauer says playing for his home team had its benefits.

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“I never wavered where I wanted to be. This is where I wanted to be,” Mauer said. “Like I said, my grandparents got to come watch me play at every home game. I can’t think of any other big-leaguer out there who’s ever had that.”

The all-star catcher won numerous awards and ended his career playing first base with the Twins.

Despite all the fame, those who know him best say he’s still just Joe.

Tony Leseman is Joe Mauer’s best friend. It’s a title he’s held and a friendship they’ve shared since high school at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul. Leseman now works there as the director of admissions.

“He’s a guy who will not waiver and Joe has not changed since 20, 25 years ago. The only thing that has changed is his bank account,” Leseman laughs.

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The walls of the athletic department still advertise Joe Mauer’s feats. A top baseball player, he was also a top football recruit and an all-state basketball player.

“Whatever sport was on hand that day is what Joe was focused on and trying to excel and he certainly did,” Leseman said.

And that dedication is something longtime coach at Cretin-Derham Hall Jim O’Neil recognized early on.

“The first time I saw him, he had a grand slam, ran around the bases and got on the bench like nothing happened – in the fifth grade – so that was my first introduction to Joe,” O’Neil said.

WCCO asked O’Neil of what he is most proud.

“Probably how he’s handled things, but that’s probably not the most surprising thing,” O’Neil said. “He was like that here, he’d walk down the halls and you’d never know he was this fantastic athlete.”

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It’s clear Joe’s spirit is still very much alive here from the field house in his honor. It’s a legacy marked by achievement and cemented by kindness.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield