Joe Mauer could have left for greener pastures. Green like the Green Monster in Boston, where his opposite-field approach and command of the strike zone may have allowed him to challenge batting average records for years.

He would have won a few World Series titles, too.

But he stayed home. In St. Paul, where he drafted No. 1 overall. With the Minnesota Twins, where his career will have him on the verge of the hall of fame.

Joe Mauer deserved better: Better health, better team performance and better treatment from baseball fans around the game in his twilight years. He deserved a ring. He deserves to be in the hall of fame.

Injuries have a funny way of altering courses. A foul tip in 2013 changed everything for Mauer. He transition out from behind the plate, where he was a sure-fire hall of fame catcher, to first base and designated hitter. He never fit baseball’s mold for first base: A power lefty for the middle part of the order, but he made the transition well.

Through all the ups and downs, disabled list trips, front office rebuild attempts and Octobers sitting at home, Mauer handled himself with the quiet grace that personifies a Minnesotan. He handled it all in stride on his way to becoming a great Twin.

In his final home game at Target Field, Mauer was still weighing his decision to retire or not. He was set to be a free agent, putting his future in a Twins uniform in doubt. The organization and the player made it a memory as Mauer stepped out of the dugout with the familiar No. 7 showing through his catcher’s gear.

One pitch. One catch. One last send off from Minnesota as he tearfully walked toward the dugout.

A Minnesota sports icon — a class act all the way — retired.

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