Mauer thrilled to be No. 1
ST. PAUL -- Joe Mauer and the Minnesota Twins had been watching each other for years, and the baseball draft finally brought them together.
The Twins used the No. 1 pick in Tuesday's draft to select the left-handed hitting catcher who grew up a Twins fan, lives just 8 miles from the Metrodome and plays at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, Minn.
"This is a natural for the Minnesota Twins," general manager Terry Ryan said. "He just happens to be from St. Paul the year we're picking No. 1."
|“||Without a doubt, Joe is the best high school athlete in the country. Joe's talent, tools and exceptional makeup give him the chance to be an impact major league player. ”|
|— Mike Radcliff
Twins scouting director
Minnesota scouting director Mike Radcliff estimated he has seen Mauer play more than 100 times during his high school career.
"Without a doubt, Joe is the best high school athlete in the country," Radcliff said. "Joe's talent, tools and exceptional makeup give him the chance to be an impact major league player."
About 100 classmates attended Mauer's news conference held at his high school gymnasium, where he earned a reputation as possibly the best all-around athlete at a school that produced Paul Molitor and Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke.
"This is kind of a fairy tale," Mauer said. "This whole high school career has been a fairy tale."
Mauer led Cretin-Derham Hall to back-to-back state championships in football, won three national football player of the year honors and has accepted a scholarship offer to play quarterback at Florida State. He also averaged nearly 20 points a game for the basketball team.
Yet, baseball is probably his best sport.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Mauer tied a national record this season by hitting homers in seven consecutive games. He batted .567 in 208 at-bats during his career, striking out just once. He won a gold medal with the Team USA Junior National Team at the world tournament in Taiwan in 1999 and was selected best hitter at the world tournament in Panama last summer.
Ryan said the Twins decided to make Mauer their No. 1 pick three days ago, though they kept the news a secret to Mauer and his family. They had reached an impasse in negotiations with Southern California pitcher Mark Prior.
"Left-handed hitting catchers are tough to come by," Ryan said. "He's a left-handed hitting catcher with lots of size."
Friends, family and teammates gathered at the Mauer home Tuesday morning. Joe slept in fairly late while others were buzzing in anticipation.
"Sometimes I wonder if he has a pulse going," said Mauer's mother, Teresa. "Nothing rattles that guy."
A family friend called the Mauers first, having discovered on the Internet that the Twins had selected Mauer. The official call came soon after.
"My mom came into the living room and said, 'They took him!"' said Joe's brother, Jake.
Teammates high-fived each other. There was a long, emotional hug between Joe and his father, Jake Sr.
"We were all crying," Joe Mauer said. "It was an unbelievable feeling."
Ryan said the Twins will delay their negotiations with Mauer until Cretin-Derham Hall's season is completed. One of the few things he has yet to win in his career is a Minnesota state baseball title.
Mauer declined to speculate whether he might play football at Florida State rather than sign with the Twins.
"Right now, I just want to enjoy this," he said.
Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press
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