Not only does Twins closer Joe Nathan have 200 career saves, he might have that many career commercials. The Mariners aren't the only MLB team trying to corner the market on quirky ads —the Twinkies are just as proficient, if not more so. Nathan and catcher Joe Mauer, he of the top sideburns in baseball, are big TV stars beyond their success inside the Metrodome.
Nathan took a moment during spring training to assess his team's
chances in the AL Central acting and singing abilities, plus he walked down memory lane to his days as a tallish shortstop at Stony Brook, where he twice was an Academic All-America. They liked Nathan so much they made him cry by retiring his jersey number. OK, so he gets a little emotional sometimes. Maybe it's because of all the alien activity above his hometown in New York.
DB: Can Mauer's sideburns be used as a flotation device?
JN: I wouldn't be surprised, to tell you the truth, if they could. Those things have caused quite a stir and people are very fond of those sideburns.
DB: Where does our love for Mauer's sideburns begin?
JN: It probably started with the commercial he had; I think that's the first thing that got him noticed. Without that commercial, I think it's just a nice set of sideburns.
DB: Do you think the Twins are even better at making commercials than they are at playing baseball?
Right-hander Boof Bonser, only a locker away, reacts.
Boof Bonser: Whoa!
JN: I hope not.
Boof Bonser: Whoa, whoa, whoa! (Muttering) What's with that question?
JN: (Motioning for Bonser to calm down his hopefully fake indignation.) They are good commercials but I hope not.
DB: It's not meant to be a slap at your baseball ability but more praise for your acting chops.
JN: [Laughs]. I think they are, maybe, getting closer in talent as we do more. We might be closing the acting gap a little bit but I like to think we can play baseball a little better.
DB: Which one is your favorite?
JN: One that's not out yet. All I can say is, it's me, Mauer and Joe Mauer's mom. We're at his house. That's all I can give you. I want it to be a surprise when people see it.
DB: Wow, you're really proud of this one.
JN: I think we can compare it to the one with me and Johan [Santana] — the "Gimme the keys" one.
DB: Where you get sick!
JN: Starting and stopping.
DB: Who's better to lead you around, Johan or a Garmin?
JN: Definitely the GPS!
DB: If the Twins were to put on a musical, who in here would get the lead role?
JN: For sure, Matt Guerrier. I think he's done some theater in high school; I think he plays a saxophone. He's got the ability. It's either him or Brian Buscher. He's giving us guitar lessons. He plays a mean guitar. Real guitar, not "Guitar Hero." He can sing pretty good, too, belts out some notes. It'd be a pretty good battle.
DB: What about you? You have all this experience and acting ability.
JN: I wouldn't say I have "ability" to act. I could probably get up there and embarrass myself.
DB: Should Joe Mauer's sideburns be tested for follicle-enhancing drugs?
JN: No, no [laughs]. That's not a fair question these days! You know what? They probably do test them.
DB: Do you remember meeting Joe Nathan, senior fellow at the University of Minnesota's Hubert H. Humphrey Institute, when you first got to Minnesota?
JN: (Having trouble). I think there's quite a few Joe Nathans out there.
DB: Yeah, but this is in Minneapolis. We're not talking about a random encounter across the country. This guy works at a place called the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute. Where have I heard those words in that order before, but with "Metrodome" on the end?
JN: I know, I know. I entered his territory so he should be the one that's mad that I came to his spot.
DB: Did you lose breath when you heard they retired your number at Stony Brook?
JN: Yes. The one thing the AD there, Jim Fiore, was trying to do was to get me to cry. He accomplished that goal.
DB: Why would they want to make you cry?
JN: ‘Cause they wanted it special enough to overwhelm me, to break me down and get emotional. It sure did.
DB: When was the last time you broke down and got emotional?
JN: It must have been — it's really not a big moment — but every time I watch "Pursuit of Happyness" [laughs]. It was on TV right before I came to spring training. I cry every time. I think it's 5-for-5 now, every time I've seen it.
DB: What's the secret handshake for the Golden Key National Hono(u)r Society meetings?
JN: We need one!
DB: Are you paid on your dues?
JN: I think so. ARE there dues? Maybe it's an automatic deduction from your salary.
DB: How aware/proud/awed are you of your career slugging percentage (.302 with two homers and four RBIs)?
JN: It could be better.
DB: That's great for a closer in the AL!
JN: Don't get a chance to hit anymore. Just in the National League.
DB: Would you like them to kill the DH?
JN: I wouldn't get to hit anyway. I don't need to see our pitchers hit.
DB: Take me, us, back to your childhood in Pine Bush, N.Y. Ever see a UFO?
JN: As a kid, "they" always talked about the people who went up with airplanes and tried to make them look like UFOs.
JN: There was supposedly something about — because "everybody says they saw UFOs" — there was rumors about people actually going up with airplanes. I don't know how they did it, being a 10-year-old kid, but the rumors were that people would go up there and make the lights in the sky look like UFOs.
DB: Oh, like a prank.
JN: The rumor was that people were doing this to mess with other people. But that was a rumor. Have I seen a UFO? No.
DB: Are we alone?
JN: I find it hard to believe that we're alone. What is out there? No idea.
DB: The story of your wife, Lisa Nathan, giving birth to your girl, Riley. It's easy to picture you at the hospital maternity ward, standing there in full uniform. Were you in cleats too?
JN: [Laughs]. Definitely not in full uniform. My wife kicked me out and told me I had to go to the game. That part is true.
DB: What are the similarities between a pitcher's delivery and a mother's delivery?
JN: With some pitchers, the screaming. I have some grunts sometimes. ... Sometimes, afterwards, they can be both just as messy.
DB: Other than yourself, which closer has the most consistent facial hair in the majors?
JN: How about non facial hair? Clean-shaven? Mariano Rivera. I don't think I've ever seen him with a five o'clock shadow. Ever. He's always clean shaven, and I know that's their rule, but you'd think he'd miss a couple of days of shaving and have a little stubble.
DB: Do Mauer's sideburns light up for Christmas?
JN: I'm not in Minnesota for Christmas, so I can't say for sure. I hope they do.
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Previous Answer Men (and Woman):
2009 • Jay Bruce — March 25 • Carlos Pena — March 20 • Shane Victorino — March 12 ••• 2008 • Hunter Pence — April 10 • Justin Morneau — April 17 • David Wright — April 24 • Erin Andrews — April 25 • Andy Van Slyke — May 1 • Derek Jeter — May 8 • Bob Uecker — May 15 • Bert Blyleven — May 22 • Torii Hunter — May 29 • Joba Chamberlain — June 3 • Larry Bowa — June 13 • Zack Greinke — June 20 • Kerry Wood — June 26 • Huston Street — July 10 • Josh Hamilton — July 15 • Milton Bradley — July 24 • CC Sabathia — July 31 • Mike Mussina — Aug. 7 • Jason Bay — Aug. 14 • Cole Hamels — Aug. 22 • Ron Santo — Aug. 28 • Francisco Rodriguez — Sept. 11 • Ryan Dempster — Sept. 18 • Evan Longoria — Oct. 2