He arrives at the ballpark in his 1969 Chevelle and dresses in a home jersey, cap, shorts and a pair of running shoes. He will prepare for this one the way he has prepared for every one of the previous 114: intent on making sure his 6'5", 230-pound body forgets what happened in 2011. Twins, is meaningless in the grand scheme, one game out of 162, one game in a lifetime of them for Twins catcher Joe Mauer.He walks down the tunnel outside the Twins' clubhouse, shuffling a little, his back stiff, his legs tired. After a quick trip to an interview room to tape a standard-issue, end-of-season promo thanking the fans, he heads back to the clubhouse, stopping every few steps to stretch his back. His team is 16 games under .500 and 13 1/2 games behind the White Sox in the American League Central.
There are, presumably, as many years ahead of him as behind him, and the ones immediately ahead of him, chronologically and anecdotally, should be among the best of an already spectacular career.
Yet there is something distant about him, something assured but vulnerable too.