MINNEAPOLIS — Joe Mauer has been around Paul Konerko enough over the last 11 seasons to know the White Sox captain isn’t big on farewell tours.
But there’s no way the Minnesota Twins catcher or his organization would let their long-time division nemesis escape the Twin Cities without some recognition. The Twins went “above and beyond” according to Konerko on Wednesday night with a ceremony that included a video highlights montage as well as the presentation of gifts by Mauer, closer Glen Perkins and manager Ron Gardenhire.
“We had to recognize him,” Mauer said. “We talked about it this year. We wanted to do something special for him. I know (Derek) Jeter, it’s his last year and he’s getting a lot of recognition across the league, but I think Paul Konerko is as much deserving as Jeter. We wanted to show him that he’s doing things the right way and he’s had a great career and we definitely appreciate what he has done for the game.”
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They began with what appeared to be at least a 10-pound bottle of 2005 Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon, which drew a laugh from Konerko when Mauer and Perkins handed it over.
Then Gardenhire emerged from the dugout with a $10,000 check made out to Children’s Home + Aid, a Chicago-based charity that Konerko has been involved with over the years. Konerko, his wife, Jennifer, and Jim Thome and his wife, Andrea, began in 2007 the Bring Me Home campaign, which “raises support for the needs of foster children through public awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts” in conjunction with the charity.
“It’s just a classy move,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said.
The Twins are the third team to honor Konerko this season along with the Cubs and New York Yankees. Jeter presented Konerko with a glass-encased base signed by the entire Yankees team on Aug. 24.
But being celebrated has never been Konerko’s goal.
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When he pondered retirement in 2013, Konerko said he would be satisfied to never be honored in front of a full stadium. If he were to return in 2014, it was to see things right with the White Sox and to enjoy a final season. He joked that he wasn’t interested in a farewell tour because he didn’t want the publicity but more important — what if a team chose not to honor him?
Mauer said that’s exactly why the Twins were adamant they would honor Konerko and his blue-collar approach to the game.
“He plays the game the right way,” Mauer said. “I wish a lot of guys coming up, even Little League guys, watch him and emulate his play. He comes out every day. He works hard. He’s not a flashy guy or anything like that, he just plays the game the way it should be played, and I’ve admired him from the side for a long time. The way he competes and gets after it, I hope that’s the way I’m viewed, too.”
The 256 games Konerko has played against Minnesota are the most by any opponent. Konerko, who didn’t play Wednesday, has a .286/.348/.496 slash line with 50 homers and 136 RBIs in 1,025 plate appearances against the Twins. He reached base three times in Tuesday’s game, singling in his final at-bat.
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Konerko has a .326/.400/.500 line in 38 games at Target Field with six homers and 23 RBIs.
Konerko said he appreciated the gesture and enjoyed that it was Mauer, Perkins and Gardenhire who honored him.
“The Central means a lot more,” Konerko said. “That’s not to take away from the other places, but I’ll always be an American League guy and an American League Central guy. There have been a lot of battles against the Twins over the years and a lot of games against Joe and Perk, so it was nice those two guys were out there.
“Having Joe out there, it’s like a Derek Jeter situation. He’s kind of a legend type guy. I would say he and Miguel Cabrera and are the best two hitters I’ve seen during my career, righty-lefty. That’s pretty cool for me. I’m a fan of the game as well. To go out there with those guys is good. That was a classy move.”