KANSAS CITY -- For Joe Mauer, this season has been about getting back to normal. And a normal season for Mauer wouldn't be complete without a trip to the All-Star Game.
Mauer played in just 82 games in 2011 and saw his numbers take a significant dip, but '12 has been much better to the catcher. His hard work to come back from injury has been rewarded with placement on his fifth American League All-Star team.
"Well, it's a good feeling. Obviously with all the things that happened last year and the hard work that I put in to get back, it's a nice little reward midway through the season," said Mauer, who missed time last season due to complications following knee surgery and pnemonia. "It's always nice to come back, and I say that I'll keep coming back as long as they have me. So it's nice."
The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 6:30 p.m. CT. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com.
Mauer had career lows nearly across the board last season, including a .287 batting average, a .360 on-base percentage, just three home runs and 30 RBIs. This season, Mauer has appeared in 77 games -- five shy of his 2011 total -- and is hitting .326 with 41 RBIs and an AL-leading .416 on-base percentage.
In other words, back to normal.
Helping with the return to the usual for Mauer will be the site of Tuesday's All-Star Game: Kauffman Stadium. In 50 career games at the Royals' home park, Mauer owns a .351 batting average, a .445 on-base percentage, 39 walks, 16 doubles and 41 RBIs. He's amassed more walks and RBIs at "The K" than at any other road ballpark.
"Kansas City, I was really excited that the game was here and I was able to come," Mauer said. "Great baseball town, great fans. I've been able to see that quite a bit because we're in the same division. It's nice. I'm sure they're excited. I'm sure they're going to put on a great show. I'm excited for all the festivities."
Mauer is used to all the Midsummer Classic hoopla, and one of the benefits for him is being able to catch the All-Star pitchers. His fifth time around, he's already caught some of the All-Stars multiple times.
American League lineup
1. Derek Jeter, NYY
2. Robinson Cano, NYY
3. Josh Hamilton, TEX
4. Jose Bautista, TOR
5. Prince Fielder, DET
6. Adrian Beltre, TEX
7. David Ortiz, BOS
8. Mike Napoli, TEX
9. Curtis Granderson, NYY
Justin Verlander, DET
"I've caught [David] Price. I'm actually excited to see [Chris] Perez. Obviously we face him all the time, so I'll be catching instead of trying to hit against him. [Felix] Hernandez I've caught. [Justin] Verlander I've caught a few times. It's kind of fun to get back there with those guys. [Joe] Nathan, obviously I've caught quite a bit. Hopefully I get a chance to do that again. It's kind of neat to see the same guys over and over. There's a reason why they keep coming back.
"It's fun. It's better to catch some of these guys than to try to face them. It's basically just go out there and see what they want to do. Obviously, they made it here for a reason, and I always tell them that I'll try to keep it in front of me and we'll go from there. It's a pretty neat thing to work with a guy and see how the ball comes in."
One of those All-Stars is the aforementioned Nathan, who pitched for the Twins for seven seasons. Nathan changed teams during the offseason, heading to Texas, after playing in Minnesota for the entirety of Mauer's career. Now both he and Mauer have returned to the All-Star Game.
Mauer hopes to see Nathan's familiar face on the mound, and he'll have many in the stands. He said that 20 friends and family members are coming down from Minnesota for Tuesday's game.
A big difference in this year's game for Mauer, though, is the absence of a Minnesota teammate. He was accompanied by Francisco Liriano and Johan Santana in 2006, Nathan and Justin Morneau in '08 and '09 and Morneau again in '10. This year he's a Twin without a twin.
"I'd like to bring a couple of my teammates," Mauer said. "We talked about Josh Willingham, I think he could've been here, well deserving. Every year, there's a couple guys that you think should be here that aren't. Hopefully we can get back on track in the second half."
Mauer is 2-for-8 in four All-Star appearances, picking up a walk, a double, a run scored and an RBI. His biggest hit was a game-tying RBI double in the fifth inning of the '09 All-Star Game in St. Louis.
Tuesday, Mauer will be looking to get a hit that's just as big.
Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.