The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 13
However brief it may have been, it was cool to see one of my idols in person. Even though he was being pushed through literal buckets of stuff to autograph on his way to do a promotional appearance at the Mall of America to launch his new Joe Mauer-branded Nike shoe on a game day, Mauer was the most polite celebrity I've had the pleasure to meet.As much time as I spend interviewing people with cool jobs and great personal wealth, Mauer is a celebrity on a different level. Even for a simple promo spot like this, he's got various PR and marketing representatives -- people from Sony, Nike, Mall of America, his own endorsement rep -- surrounding him at all times, making sure simultaneously that he is happy and taken care of as well as ensuring that they get their own slice of his time and attention.Six takes on a line to be later spliced into a Kevin Butler commercial. Pose with a plaque bearing his shoe. Run through the script and marketing bullet points about the virtues of his shoe, then record several shots at explaining why it's so great. Wish happy birthday to the Mall of America for a video promo on Facebook. Sign video games. Sign baseballs. Smile and shake hands with everyone in the room. Reassure event planners that he truthfully does not care if he wears the white hoodie he came in with or one of several sizes of red Nike sport jacket laid out on a conference table.
This all takes place in fifteen minutes in the green room. After a firm handshake that engulfs my reasonably sized hands (I'm over six feet, not a small guy, and he dwarfs me in every dimension) in Mauer's enormous mitts, I'm trying to be unobtrusive standing in the corner while Mauer takes care of his business. I have no idea when I'm going to get a chance to ask Mauer questions (the pitch that got me to drag myself out to my personal hell the Mall of America in the first place), but it's all good. This is probably the best baseball player to play for my favorite team in my lifetime, and I'm not ten feet from the guy.I'm amazed watching Mauer handle all of this with grace, dispensing genuine smiles to everyone he meets. I'm sure he's been through similar situations dozens of times through his lauded baseball career, but he honestly seems like more of a down-to-earth regular guy than half the level designers I meet. Being around him, you get the sense that he's just happy to be who he is and lead the life he does. He's certainly got enough reason to, but fame and fortune don't always breed the humble type.All video recorded, wearing his new shoes and still rocking the white hoodie and a pair of blue jeans, Mauer is ready to head up to the event itself. We jump on a cart that navigates through the extensive tunnel network from the VIP entrance and green rooms we were just in to a freight elevator that takes us up to the Nike store. My chance to ask Mauer questions finally arrives, and I get two minutes to pick his brain about Sony's baseball game as the electric cart hums along its way.Gabe Newell could give you a month's worth of thoughts to chew on in two minutes. Joe Mauer, not so much. I get a few marketing bullet points rearranged nicely into sound bite form (MLB The Show developer Sony San Diego is attentive to detail? Really? Do tell!) and a chuckling admission that he doesn't like to "lift weights and all that, but I kind of have to for my job." I'd be very surprised if Mauer even knows what Game Informer is, but he smiles, laughs, and gives every appearance of being perfectly happy to answer inane questions about a video game.And then it's over. I get the Sony rep to snap a photo of Mauer and myself that throws into stark contrast the fact that he's a handsome star athlete and I'm...not (check out next month's GI Spy section in the magazine to see just how dumpy I look compared to a $23 million dollar professional baseball player). We head up to the Nike store, where it seems that every employee who could make an excuse to do so is hanging out in the back to lend their hands to the round of applause that greets Mauer as he enters the back room.
Again, Mauer smiles like he just got to a surprise party with his best friends, shakes hands with everyone, and lets himself be guided from station to station as the various marketing/PR types go over their endorsement needs at the soon-to-begin event. Asked whether or not he is any good at the Home Run Derby mode he's about to play high school kids at onstage, he chuckles and says, "We'll find out." Mauer relays stories about how amusing the actor who plays Kevin Butler in the Sony commercials is in real life, and reveals that many of the funnier bits from that ongoing marketing campaign were ad-libbed by Butler on set.Twins announcer John Gordon's amplified voice comes through the walls as he pumps the assembled high school baseball and softball teams up to lay eyes on their hometown hero. Mauer glides through the door, waits for his cue, and treats the gleeful fans to that same smile as he parts the curtain and walks onstage. I snap a few photos myself and make myself scarce; my brush with fame is over.The whole morning is entirely useless from an informational perspective, not that I expected to glean any grand video game insights from Mauer. The shoe is...not something I would wear (seriously, a Playstation logo on the tongue of an athletic training shoe?). The custom PS3 setup Sony presented Mauer with (see photo below) is freakin' sweet. It would look fantastically stupid with my chrome-and-glass entertainment stand, but I probably wouldn't turn it down.
Yeah, I didn't love setting an early alarm on a Friday night. There was a little less pain involved than in climbing into an early-morning flight from Cologne, Germany with Gas Powered Games' Chris Taylor as we both attempted with mixed results to recover from the festivities that bookended the exhausting week-long GamesCom trade show, though.