After posting a batting line of .233/.314/.418 (.732 OPS) while averaging 19 homers in his first three, full big league seasons, Max Kepler has blossomed in 2019. The “Twin from Berlin” has hit .263/.333/.527 (.860 OPS) while smacking 25 long balls in 92 games this year.
Blessed with a beautiful left-handed swing and the fluid athleticism of his ballet dancer parents, Kepler’s ascendance to stardom shouldn’t come as a surprise. I caught up with the 26-year-old outfielder during the Oakland series last week.
DZ: Well, obviously the season’s going well for you and the team. How fun is it being in the pennant race right now?
KEPLER: It’s awesome.
DZ: That’s all you got?
DZ: This has got to be a pretty fun lineup to be a part of with all the home runs and-
KEPLER: Yeah, it is.
DZ: All right. What’s it like playing for Rocco (Baldelli) this year versus past years under Paul Molitor?
KEPLER: Well, he’s obviously younger so I think he takes a different approach. I think he has more of a — it’s new school opposed to old school baseball. And I think he’s just here to really try and get a feel for his players. And yeah, he’s on the same level. Molly’s a Hall of Famer, so I feel like a lot of people always looked up to Molly. And yeah, it’s normal. A lot of people idolize Molly. So I feel like Rocco is more on the players’ level, which you can take away good things from both. But yeah, I think he’s done a great job so far.
DZ: You were kind of up for All Star game consideration. Were you disappointed at all not to make it?
KEPLER: Mm-mm (negative). I’m here to try and win a championship with this team in the years to come. All Stars is for — who decides? I don’t really care.
DZ: Well, at the Homerun Derby, you hit a lot of home runs in Cleveland. You seemed like a good fit for that.
KEPLER: Yeah. I don’t know. I just try and put the ball in play, and I guess Cleveland, I was that short porch, right? And that’s involved. Sneak out.
DZ: You’re in your fourth full season now, do you feel more like a veteran?
KEPLER: No. No. I don’t know. As many years as I get to play, I don’t think I’ll ever want to look at myself as a veteran because I want to just be a student of the game forever until I, till the day I stop playing. I’m always learning. So I mean, yeah, I’ll grow with age, but I think my eagerness to learn will always be the same. So rookie at heart.
DZ: Cool. do you follow the women’s World Cup at all?
KEPLER: A little bit, yeah.
DZ: What’d you think of that?
KEPLER: The US didn’t have much competition. Yeah, I’m kind of sad the Germans didn’t come further.
DZ: Who do you root for in that situation?
DZ: Okay. What did you do during the All Star break?
KEPLER: I stayed here.
DZ: Just in town here?
KEPLER: Yeah. Stay here. I had a light knee injury, and I didn’t want to fly at the time because they said it was bad for the knee inflammation. So I just laid low, recovered.
DZ: Did you cancel any plans because of that?
KEPLER: No. I mean I had some ideas but no set plans.
DZ: What do you like about this city? What do you do when you’re around town?
KEPLER: I like to go on the lake. I like to see concerts when I have time to. They have cool venues here. Great food. Yeah, I mean there’s a lot of things to do. I feel like I really enjoy the nature, so going up north is nice.
See more of David Zingler’s 2019 athlete interviews:
July 20: Kyle Gibson
July 10: Alaina Coates
June 25: Taylor Rogers
June 19: Ryan Eades
June 16: Jason Castro
May 18: Seimone Augustus
April 24: Ryne Harper
April 21: CJ Cron
February 2: Caleb Truax