At St. Paul's Nook, fans show love for Joe Mauer's Hall of Fame election

Bar patrons cheered Tuesday at The Nook restaurant in St. Paul as they got word that Joe Mauer — their neighborhood's homegrown baseball legend — had been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Highland Park bar and restaurant has a few personal connections to the great former Twins catcher and first baseman. Employees said they have chatted with Mauer over the years when he's dined there and view him as an inspiration for local youth athletes.

Sam Boor, who does maintenance on the basement bowling alley at The Nook, said he thinks Mauer deserves the hall of fame status and sees his quick induction as extra motivation for local athletes.

"It's especially great for this community in St. Paul to give a lot of kids confidence to reach for something, to reach for their goals," said Boor, 21.

Boor said he got to meet his idol, Mauer, through youth club baseball, when former Twins pitching coach Erik Lovdahl brought Boor to Target Field to practice.

"He was very friendly, loves talking to people," Boor said. "He's not shy.".

The Nook sits just across the street from Cretin-Derham Hall High School, where Mauer starred in multiple sports. Mauer grew up a Twins fan and was drafted straight out of high school by the local team. He was the first catcher to win an American League batting title and ended up winning it three times. He won the MVP award in 2009 and never played for another franchise.

Boor and the bar managers also admire Mauer for giving back to the St. Paul community over the years. In recent years he has run the Mauer and Friends Kids Classic, which raises money for Gillette Children's Hospital and Clinics.

Several bar patrons said they didn't realize he was getting nominated and just happened to be there, but said it's great for the community to have another St. Paul player join the Hall of Fame alongside Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield and Jack Morris.

"He's an awesome baseball player, so it's great to see someone from this neighborhood actually make it, plus he's got a huge presence in this neighborhood," said Stacey Brown, 52, as she sat with a friend at the bar.

Outside The Nook, a plastic target with a baseball is pinned on the building's second floor, indicating where Mauer once hit a home run from the field across the street, smacking the bar.

Mauer was an acclaimed hitter in the league, and local batting instructors said Tuesday they were thrilled with the award for Mauer. Mike Santi, owner and founder of Hit Club baseball training center in Arden Hills, said batters often look to Mauer's form to try and perfect their swings.

"People try to emulate what he did, for sure," he said.