Joe Mauer wins AL Most Valuable Player Award
Posted on November 23, 2009
Joe Mauer #7 of the Minnesota Twins gets ready in the dugout before the game against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on July 22, 2009 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Brad Mangin)
It was no surprise to me- or anyone else who followed Major League Baseball in 2009- that Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer was named the 2009 American League Most Valuable Player today. The 26-year-old backstop edged out the Yankees’ duo of Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira for the honor. Mauer was a near-unanimous winner in voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, receiving 27 of 28 first-place votes and 387 points.
Mauer led the league with a .365 batting average and flirted with .400 during the early summer months. Mauer has always been fun for me to photograph whenever the Twins play the A’s in Oakland, and this year was especially enjoyable as the Minnesota ball club visited the Bay Area twice- giving me two different day games to shoot Mauer in action.
I was able to shoot Mauer during two different day games this season, once on assignment for Sports Illustrated. Mauer is such a special player that when he comes to town he becomes the focus of everything I do. When the Twins are playing defense I sit on him the entire game trying to get him chasing a bunt, a foul ball or a wild pitch. Catchers are always fun to shoot and getting Mauer ripping off his mask to make a defensive play makes all of the hard work worth it (see above.)
Mauer has always had one of the best smiles in the game and is fun to shoot before the game as the players get ready in the dugout. He seems to be very loose and he enjoys joking with his teammates. This makes me happy as I am always right there trying to document only the second catcher in 33 years to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award.
Mauer is one of the greatest players in the game right now, so I have been trying to do a much better job of documenting all phases of his game each time I shoot him. One of the hardest things for me to do is to get a real nice batting picture of Mauer. He has a real nice left-handed swing, but whenever I shoot him from the third base side his head is always down when he makes contact with the ball. The only time I can see his face is when he goes the other way and hits one to left field (see above). Whenever I go over to first base to shoot him I never get a good swing. Maybe 2010 will be the year I finally get a nice batting picture of Mauer!
It is hard to explain, but Mauer is one of those guys who looks like something when he plays. I don’t care if he is just sitting in the dugout, calling a game from behind the plate, or striding to the plate for an at bat (see above) with that number 7 on his back. Joe Mauer is a ballplayer. This season started rough for Mauer as he missed the first month with a back injury. Mauer homered in his first at-bat of the season and went on to set a major league record for the highest batting average by a catcher and won his third batting title.
Mauer, the St. Paul, Minnesota native was one of those can’t miss prospects when I first shot him in Oakland in 2005 (see above). He was a much more established player when his Twins squared off against the A’s in the 2006 playoffs (see below). His Twins teams have always been so strong and played so well with such a tiny payroll and a no-named pitching staff. This year was no exception as they made an amazing comeback in the AL Central by catching the Detroit Tigers on the final weekend of the season to force a one game playoff in what would be the final game at ever at the Metrodome. Of course the Twins won a thriller against the Tigers to earn a post-season berth against the dreaded New York Yankees.
The Twins came up short in the 2009 ALDS against the Yankees but they will no doubt be back in the hunt in 2010 when they baptize Target Field- their new outdoor ballpark in Minneapolis. I know many photographers in the mid west who will be thrilled to have a chance to shoot Mauer in his home whites during a glorious day game at home next year. I hope to have a chance to do the same and visit the new yard in the near future to photograph this year’s AL MVP.