ANAHEIM -- At age 13, it's about as close as you can get to playing baseball with a Major Leaguer.
Even before the 2010 All-Stars got going in their morning news conferences Monday, Twins catcher and four-time All-Star Joe Mauer was on his game. The cover boy of MLB 10 The Show on Playstation 3 was at the Playstation Patrol Truck at 8 a.m. PT, getting the day's FanFest off to a quick start.
About 20 youths from the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Ana played The Show on high-definition TVs, and a few of the best got a chance to play Mauer himself.
"I'm actually a little nervous, because I'm sure these guys are pretty good," Mauer said. "I play the game, but I'm sure they got all the little ins and outs, so I'm a little nervous about competing against them today."
Raymond Santana, a 13-year-old from Santa Ana won a Home Run Derby contest against his Boys and Girls Club peers, slugging out 10 homers with Alex Rodriguez. To Santana, Mauer's a top-of-the-line player, but his heart is in the Bronx.
"My dad's from New York, and that's why my whole family's Yankees fans," said Santana, who was excited when his Boys and Girls club was looking for participants for the event a week ago. "I think Mauer's a great player."
Mauer was happy to be out with the Boys and Girls Club members, whether they were Yankees fans, Twins fans, whatever. He's involved with a number of programs in Minnesota, his home state, including the Boys and Girls Club.
"The Boys and Girls Club, mentoring partnerships, a lot of different things," Mauer said. "It's fun, kids get excited, baseball and video games, I think they all go hand-in-hand with the kids."
The games took place in the heart of the Anaheim Convention Center, with vendors selling baseball memorabilia and other stands all around. Mauer said he enjoys the FanFest, even if it means an earlier than usual wake-up.
"You know coming into it you kind of know what to expect," he said. "I've been able to go to a couple of these games before, I know it's going to be a couple crazy days. You just try to have fun with it." On Sony's end, they're hoping Mauer will return as the face of the game for next season as well.
"Joe's just been a fantastic guy to work with," said Eric Levine, manager of product public relations. "He's one of the best cover athletes we've had, we've had a great relationship with him and he really couldn't be a nicer guy. It's great to give back and give the kids an opportunity to meet with someone of Joe's caliber, a superstar, somebody they look up to."
It wasn't inconceivable that Mauer could miss not just the FanFest, but this year's All-Star Game entirely. His numbers are solid, but by his standards, down. The three-time American League batting champion comes in hitting .293 with four home runs and 35 RBIs. Last season, an MVP year, Mauer hit .365 with a career-high 28 home runs and 96 RBIs.
The statistics, though, weren't close to keeping him away. He garnered 5,372,606 fan votes, the most of any player.
But some nagging injuries had Twins manager Ron Gardenhire cautious about his franchise player making the trip to Anaheim.
"If I had my druthers, I'd rather have Mauer not go, sure I would," Gardenhire said. "I would like to see him get the break and take a break -- a guy that catches as much as he has and he's beat up at this time of the year.
"But he's earned the right to go to the All-Star Game."
AL manager Joe Girardi announced Monday morning that Mauer would bat seventh in the AL lineup. Taking anti-inflammatory medication to aid his right shoulder, Mauer still wants to be a part of it all.
"I keep telling them, I was like, '[As] long as you'll have me, I'll keep coming back,'" Mauer said. "It's a great event. And to get out here and interact at FanFest is definitely something that I enjoy."
The 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.