MINNEAPOLIS -- Wild forward Zach Parise's friendship with Twins first baseman Joe Mauer wasn't born out of a shared kinship over their Minnesota roots.
It didn't spring from the coincidence that they grew up playing on fields and in rinks that were a quick drive up I-494 from each other, all those days spent honing their crafts before they began playing on the most significant field and ice sheet in the state.
What drew Parise and Mauer together initially was -- what else? -- a conversation about strollers.
"I remember texting them and asking them something about twins, knowing we were having twins," Parise said. "I think I asked them something stupid like what kind of stroller they had because my wife wanted to know."
"The first conversation we really had was, 'Hey, what kind of stroller do you have?'" Mauer said. "Probably not what you'd expect."
You don't have to look far to find the parallels that bind Parise and Mauer. As home-grown Minnesotans, they feel the weight of the state's expectations and dreams more acutely than the average pitcher from Kansas or defenseman from Ontario. Mauer married his high school sweetheart, Maddie, and Parise met his wife, Alisha, while he was attending the University of North Dakota.
And, of course, there's the twins: The Mauers welcomed Maren and Emily in July of 2013, and a little more than six months later, the Parises added Jaxson and Emelia to their family.
Hence the stroller talk.
"Our kids do a lot of those kid activities together. They did some gymnastics together, then they do these camps together," Parise said. "My wife and Maddie are friends. [And] when we get together, we don't talk about hockey. We don't talk about baseball."
As their families have bonded, Parise and Mauer have become good friends who certainly have no shortage of things in common. Growing closer, Mauer said, was "a lot of fun, because I always admired him from afar and the player and person he is.
"It was fun to have that connection and get to know him better."
Parise and Mauer are also ardent supporters of each other's causes of choice. In January of 2016, Mauer joined Parise for a skating party with kids from Children's Hospitals, decked out in a custom Mauer Wild jersey and a Twins batting helmet.
"We got him on some skates a couple years ago," Parise said. "You do what you can to help out the community and help out your friends."
And on Friday, Parise spent the afternoon at Target Field for Mauer's second annual Mauer and Friends Kids Classic, which welcomed children from Gillette Children's onto the field at the Twins' home stadium for games and fun with local athletes, including Twin Cities natives on other baseball, football and hockey teams, like Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh and Sharks defenseman Paul Martin.
These friendships and closeness are part of what makes Minnesota sports special, Parise said.
"Here, a lot more than when I played in New Jersey, you kind of have the sports intertwined," Parise said. "You see a lot of the same guys at different events and different things and you develop relationships with them.
"[The Mauers] are such a good family, good people."