July 6, 2006


The Kid Who Struck Out Joe Mauer: His name isn't the answer to a trivia question—not yet (Jim Walsh, July 5, 2006, City Pages)

He doesn't want his picture in the paper. He doesn't want his name in the paper. In fact, he'd rather you not know his name at all. He understands how Mauer Mania and the media can hoover up a fella in the blink of a CNN crawl, and he has little interest in becoming the next Pete Best or Babe the Blue Ox. No, he will not live out his days as an asterisk or an answer to the trivia question: Joe Mauer struck out just one time in high school. What was the name of the pitcher who got him?

Paul Feiner.

So let it please the court that Feiner is more than just The Kid Who Struck Out Joe Mauer, talk of which, he says, "makes my stomach cringe with feelings of extraordinary self-indulgence at this point, six years later. I feel as deserving of this attention as Paris Hilton [is of] an Oscar nomination." Hence, The Kid would only agree to an e-mail interview, which, in terms of the myth-making that is at the heart of all baseball lore, could actually backfire and turn him into Shoeless J.D. Salinger, or some such thing. [...]

We are here to talk about what happened only once in 222 at-bats, a feat that Mauer's high school coach, Jim O'Neill, described as "phenomenal" last week. "I coached him three years in high school," says O'Neill, an older and wiser man who is apparently not at all uncomfortable with phone interviews or his place in history. "I coached him 50 games in the summer, so that's at least a couple hundred more at-bats where he didn't strike out. I've never heard of anything like it. Even great hitters have five or six strikeouts a season. It's just the law of averages."

When Mauer was small, his father built a hitting contraption for the back yard: a PVC pipe that dropped a ball in the air. It gave young Mauer quick wrists and helped make him the hitter he is today (the machine is now available for 59 bucks at quickswing.com). As such, he probably had great confidence as he came to the plate that day in the sixth inning with two outs, nobody on, and the score tied 1-1. Feiner worked Mauer to a 2-2 count, then came with his best pitch, a hard curveball. The All-American swung and missed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 6, 2006 11:17 AM
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