#MLBPlayers411 |Max Kepler
Max Kepler, today's #MLBPlayers411 subject, has come a long, long way since first learning about baseball as a six-year-old Little leaguer in his birthplace of Berlin, Germany.
Now a lanky 24-year-old who has proven an athletic and versatile outfielder for the Twins since arriving in the majors in 2015, Max hit a two-run homer and an RBI single on Wednesday night to help the upstart Twins beat the Red Sox and stay within a half game of first place in the AL Central.
Max, whose parents were both ballet dancers, knew sports was his calling at a young age. At age 7, he was reportedly offered a scholarship to the Steffi Graf Tennis Foundation. He was also a goalie for the youth academy of Hertha BSC, which is one of the top clubs in Germany's Bundesliga, professional soccer league.
Many observers thought Max had a future on the pitch, but his true passion turned out to be baseball. He went on to play for Buchbinder Legionäre Regensburg of Bundesliga, which is the highest baseball league in Germany.
“Being one of the best [soccer players] in my school, people frowned about it and they were just surprised that I would take baseball which is kind of a long jump,” Max said during his 2015 rookie season.
Max was noticed by a Twins scout in 2007, at age 14. Two years later, the Twins signed him to a deal which included the largest signing bonus given by an MLB franchise to a European-born player.
“People were telling me about going abroad and playing ball in the states, which I never heard of,” Kepler said. “It kind of got me thinking: I want to go abroad and see what another country has to offer.”
It was Max's mom, Kathy, who is originally from San Antonio, Tex., who provided the main encouragement for his baseball adventure.
“I don't think I would have gotten as far in baseball without [my mom], because she's the one who pushed me to go abroad and see what baseball has to offer in a different country,” Max said.
After signing as an international free agent, Max spent close to seven s years in the minors. He batted .322 with nine home runs and 71 RBIs to help lead Double-A Chattanooga to a Southern League championship. The day after the Lookouts won the title, Max made his major-league debut Sept. 27, 2015 against the Detroit Tigers.
After starting the 2016 season with Triple-A Rochester, Max became the Twins everyday right fielder following an injury to Miguel Sano. On Aug. 1, 2016, Max became the first European-born major-leaguer and fifth player in Twins history to hit three home runs in a game.
A mainstay in the Twins lineup so far in 2017, Max is batting .245 with eight home runs and 29 RBIs and advancing steadily as a player.
“Without being too bold, I think everyone is very pleased with the progress he's made,” Twins manager Molitor said. “He hadn't played a lot of baseball coming over here as a young teenager. He's matured. He understands the competition better than he used to. And he's got skills. He plays as hard as anybody on our team. Runs the bases. Plays the outfield, first base.”
“I think he could have played any sport he wanted to,” said Tyler Duffey, a Twins reliever who rose through Minnesota's farm system with Max. I guess the Twins are lucky he played baseball.”
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