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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
It was six years ago that Joe Mauer, a 17-year-old high school catcher and can't-miss prospect who would eventually be hailed as the best young major league backstop in decades, appeared in FACES IN THE CROWD. For football. Although there was no room to mention it in a 45-word write-up, Mauer was then at a crossroads, pondering which sport to give up and which to pursue. A few months after the item appeared, Mauer, one of the most hotly recruited quarterbacks in the country, signed a letter of intent to play football at Florida State. Four months after that, the Twins selected him No. 1 overall in baseball's amateur draft, ahead of USC phenom Mark Prior. "I had always wanted to play baseball [professionally], but football was definitely in play at the time I was in SI," Mauer recalls. "I didn't really make the final decision on my future until I had signed my contract with the Twins the next summer."
He picked baseball because it was closer to his heart, and his decision has, one could say, worked out for him. A big leaguer since 2004, Mauer had a breakthrough '06 season in which he became the first American League catcher to win the batting title (.347) and earned his first All-Star Game appearance. He finished sixth in voting for the AL MVP award. His talent, combined with his humility and good looks, have made him the kind of hometown hero who seemed to have become extinct.
His football career, by contrast, ended on a sad note: The year his FACES item appeared, his Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders lost to the Eden Prairie Eagles 24--14 in the state championship game. "I wish it would have finished differently," Mauer says. He has no regrets about the choice he made, Mauer says, but if he ever did want to take another stab at gridiron glory, coach Bobby Bowden wants him to know that there's still a scholarship waiting at Florida State.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Dec. 25, 2000
A framed copy of Vince Carter's FACES IN THE CROWD item hangs in coach Charles Brinkerhoff's office at Mainland High. Written across it are the words, "To Coach Brink, thanks for everything." The text next to Carter's youthful face commemorates two strong games, but for coach and player it means more. "Hey, it was a cool thing," says Carter. "Nowadays high school kids are in magazines pretty regularly, but back then to see me, a kid from central Florida in there? That was something else."
"FACES put Vince on the radar," says Brinkerhoff. "It reinforced that he was an athlete and a person worth that type of attention." Carter became an All-America at North Carolina, a first-round draft pick, a seven-time NBA All-Star, and he remains one of the most electrifying players in the game.
Brinkerhoff cherishes the honor because it gave Carter recognition at a time and in a place where football stars reigned supreme, and for another reason: "We won the state championship that year," says the coach.