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Twins' Joe Mauer on retirement: 'Risk of concussion is always there'

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In his 15 major league seasons, Mauer has appeared in six All-Star Games, won three Gold Gloves, three batting titles and racked up 2,123 career hits, all with his hometown Twins.

He is one of 22 former MVPs to play his entire 15-plus-year career with one franchise. Each of the previous 21 is in the Hall of Fame.

The end of Mauer's contract created a natural parting from the game he grew up with in St. Paul, less than 10 miles from the downtown Minneapolis ballparks he called home with the Twins.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

The first overall pick in the 2001 draft out of Cretin-Derham Hall High School, the same program that produced Hall of Fame member Paul Molitor, Mauer made his debut at the Metrodome on April 5, 2004, two weeks before his 21st birthday. He signed his megadeal three weeks before the Twins began playing at Target Field.3

Mauer acknowledged down the stretch this past season he wasn't sure yet whether he was interested in continuing to play, with twin 5-year-old daughters at home and a third child on the way for him and his wife, Maddie.

Then came the final game of the season on Sept. 30, when he doubled in his last at-bat and donned his catcher's gear to symbolically take one more pitch in the top of the ninth inning as he tearfully waved to the adorning crowd.

What made the moment so emotional was the fact that Mauer had not been behind the plate since Aug. 19, 2013, when a foul tip banged off his mask and triggered a concussion that forced him to move to first base for 2014.

While his athleticism -- he had a scholarship waiting for him to play quarterback at Florida State and was a sharpshooting guard on the basketball team in high school -- allowed for a relatively smooth transition on defense, the effects of the head injury robbed him of his prowess at the plate for most of the next three years.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

As a catcher, easily the game's most demanding and dangerous position, Mauer's offensive ability was Hall of Fame-worthy. In 2006, he became the first catcher to lead the league in batting average since 1942. He did so again in 2008 and in 2009, when he hit .365 with a .444 on-base percentage and a .587 slugging percentage to top the American League in all three categories and win the MVP award.

In Mauer's last 10 games as a catcher before the concussion in 2013, he went 17-for-43 with 3 doubles, 3 homers and 9 RBIs.

Staying healthy became a challenge, however, and his popularity lessened some in a state usually fiercely proud of homegrown players due to the size of his contract and the amount of his absences.

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