Minutes before Trevor Plouffe stepped to the plate for the final round of hitting at the Mauer and Friends Kids Classic, he was treated to some words of encouragement from a somewhat unlikely duo.
Nick Punto, the scrappy former Minnesota Twins infielder who kicked things off by talking smack in the group chat before the charity event, gave him some words of advice that he couldn’t repeat. Hall of famer Jim Thome gave him a more wholesome pep talk.
“Jim Thome said, ‘You didn’t come out here all the way from California to lose this thing, did you?’ ” Plouffe recalled. “I said, ‘No, sir, Jim. I did not,’ so I went up there and won it.’
Plouffe, on his 35th birthday, edged out the event’s organizer, Joe Mauer, 3-2 in home runs in the final round. Afterward, Mauer came up during Plouffe’s media scrum to jokingly say he let the former third baseman win because it was his birthday.
The Mauer and Friends Kids Classic brought plenty of moments of nostalgia — Punto slid head first into a base, longtime former manager Ron Gardenhire kicked dirt around near home plate, and Mauer and Justin Morneau were among those bashing home runs into the stands. More important, it brought in nearly $350,000 for Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, a cause close to Joe and Maddie Mauer’s hearts.
“I know the ticker was going up pretty good,” Joe Mauer said. “It was a great day for Gillette Children’s and spreading the word about Gillette.”
Mauer’s involvement with the hospital goes back to 2004, and he typically holds an annual event. It looked different this year, though, as they worked to come up with something that would adhere to potential COVID-19 protocols that might still be in place.
The home run derby idea was dreamt up, Mauer has said, by Morneau. Morneau, who won the 2008 Major League Baseball Home Run Derby, fell just shy on Tuesday, edged out by Plouffe in the semifinals. Garrett Jones, who hit the most home runs through the first two rounds, lost to Mauer 6-2 in the semifinals.
“I think I just ran out of gas (in) the semifinal round,” Mauer said. “That’s about all I had left. But no, it was fun. It played out great. We envisioned it being a lot of fun, and I think we exceeded expectations.”
The event brought together 16 participants, ranging from former Twins stars — Joe Nathan, Brian Dozier and Glen Perkins were also among those who participated — to Wild forward Zach Parise to former Viking Chad Greenway … and even a doctor from the hospital.
The reunion for the group of former Twins also featured golf on Monday, and Plouffe joked afterward that a lot of chiropractors would be called after “a lot of rotational activity for all us old guys.”
“With Joe doing stuff with the children’s hospital, any time he asks me to do something, I’m going to come do it,” Plouffe said. “It’s a brotherhood, and one of the better ones in the big leagues.”
Mauer already has thought about making the home run derby an annual event. And if he does, he’s sure Plouffe is going to be the first one on the group chat to dish out some trash talk — but it’s more than worth listening to for the cause.
“Just kind of seeing the whole thing come together and the planning that my wife Maddie and I have been doing over the last year, trying to do something and spread the word about Gillette Children’s, you know the calls that we made, it’s just like, ‘Yes, yes, yes,’ and there’s a lot of guys that wanted to come out and participate and just couldn’t make it work, so I’m glad it went off the way it did,” Mauer said.