Joe Mauer American League Batting Champion 2006
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On the day the Twins drafted Joe Mauer with their No. 1 overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft five years ago, Twins general manager Terry Ryan got a special visitor to his office.

Jake Mauer Sr. wanted to pay his grandson's new boss a little visit and let him know that he had just drafted a player that would one day hit .400.

Mauer may not have reached the .400 mark yet, but this season he accomplished something nearly as difficult, becoming the first American League catcher to win the battling title.

"It's an unbelievable honor," Mauer with a huge smile. "I don't really even know how to describe it."

History was on the line at the Metrodome on Sunday (October 1, 2006) as Mauer chased the title, which made things even sweeter for the catcher.

After leading the batting race nearly every day since June 1, when he took over with a .362 average, Mauer headed into the final day of the season with his .346 average just one point ahead of Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (.345).

There had been questions as to whether Mauer might get the day off if the Tigers clinched the division the night before. But when that didn't happen, it was clear that Twins manager Ron Gardenhire wanted Mauer's bat in the lineup to pull off a victory.

It made for quite a day at the Metrodome, as Mauer's tight chase combined with the Twins' own race for the division title. And those two things combined generated plenty of excitement for the fans in attendance for the final game of the regular season.

The crowd of 45,182 inside the Metrodome was well aware that history was on the line in Sunday's game, as every at-bat of Mauer's was followed intensely.

All in attendance seemed to know that Jeter had tallied a hit in his first at-bat, so when Mauer came up and struck out in his first time at the plate, the crowd grew suddenly quiet.

"I was nervous," Mauer said. "I felt like it was my first Major League at-bat. You know, nerves running, hands sweating. I kept telling myself I was fine and it's just another game, but you go out there and it's not just another game."

When Mauer delivered his first hit, a double in the fourth inning, the crowd roared with approval. Things only got better after that, as Mauer finished with a 2-for-4 day, finishing with a .347 average. And not only did Mauer win the title, but the Twins won a title of their own with a 5-1 win over the White Sox.

But it wasn't until the ninth inning that the crowd learned Mauer had indeed earned the title, after Jeter went 1-for-5 to finish the season at .343 and Robinson Cano went 2-for-4 to finish at .342.

Hugs and handshakes were delivered throughout the dugout to congratulate the catcher on such a momentous achievement. And the cheers were enough to draw him out of the dugout for a well-deserved curtain call.

"We told him to get his butt out there," Gardenhire said with a laugh. "If you hit .347 in the Major Leagues and win a batting title, you certainly deserve one of those. Fortunately, our crowd was very good and knew what they wanted to see, which was a curtain call from him."

Mauer joined some pretty elite company, as only two catchers in the history of modern baseball had won batting titles before him, both occurring in the National League. Bubbles Hargrave won a title in 1926 and Ernie Lombardi accomplished the feat twice, in 1938 and 1942.

As Mauer admits, there were plenty of difficulties achieveing the feat because of his catching demands.

"Obviously, there is a reason why it hasn't happened more," Mauer said. "There are a lot of things you need to worry about, as a catcher."

The wear and tear of catching duties may be tough, but one of the hardest things Mauer had to overcome may have been the increased attention that was thrust upon him during his prolonged run. The intuitively shy catcher is known for keeping himself at a fair distance from any kind of attention, and this certainly put him in a place that made him a tad uncomfortable.

"He's pretty humble, very humble actually, and doesn't like talking about himself," backup catcher Mike Redmond said. "It's also good that we've been trying to get to the playoffs, so it's sort of taken the focus off that."

For Mauer, there was definitely an excitement about winning, but he's also happy to finish the chase.

"Every day, I've had a question about the batting title since the All-Star break, maybe even before that," Mauer said with a laugh. "I'm just relieved it's all over with."

And while Mauer's grandfather may have had high aspirations for Joe, the catcher didn't really even consider being in such a chase prior to this season.

"It never even came into my thinking," Mauer said with a smile. "I just try to go out there and have good at-bats every time. I didn't really even think about trying to get a batting title, or anything like that."

And while many may find that hard to believe, his teammate and roommate Justin Morneau said that the topic never even came up in discussion until Sunday morning.

"That was the first time it was brought up, and I asked him about it," Morneau said. "I asked him if he knew what had to happen for him to win. And yeah, he had paid attention."

Reaching the feat wasn't easy for Mauer, as he saw his average fall from its season high of .392 at the end of June to .346 heading into the final day of the race.

But in the end, all the ups and downs were worth it.

"This is the best day of my baseball career," Mauer said. "To be in my hometown, winning the batting title, becoming the first catcher to do it in the American League and then the ceremony for [Brad] Radke, who I've watched pitch since he got here, and to send him off before the game like that ... it's been a day full of emotion."