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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

WSJ: Son of Star Ballet Dancers Sets Off an MLB Bidding War

Break out those Karalli caps!

Max Kepler-Rozycki, 16, has just received an $800,000 bonus to sign with the Minnesota Twins, a stunning sum for a teenager out of Europe and a record for an amateur position player outside the U.S. and Latin America. Officials from a dozen Major League teams, including the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs, came to Berlin this year to check out the 6-foot-3, 190-pound outfielder. They compare his compact, graceful swing to that of Shawn Green, who retired in 2007 with 328 home runs. Scouts say Mr. Kepler-Rozycki possesses baseball’s five “tools”—speed, arm strength, glovework and the ability to hit for both power and average.

But the reason the Twins are betting long on a kid who is still two years away from his high school graduation is another pair of attributes scouts talk about, both inherited from his parents, former Berlin ballet stars. The first is genetics. Two athletes usually beget talented kids. The left-handed Max is so naturally coordinated he can hit a golf ball 250 yards—right-handed.

The second is “makeup”—a mix of discipline, attitude, confidence, seriousness and stage presence that allows players under the spotlight in a technically difficult sport like baseball to adjust to tougher and tougher competition. Makeup leads the chosen to the top. Its absence chops down the insanely talented athletes they’re up against. Scouts say signing players who have it is a smart way to play the odds.

Repoz Posted: August 18, 2009 at 12:45 PM | 18 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: international, prospect reports, scouting, twins

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   1. tjm1 Posted: August 18, 2009 at 01:03 PM (#3296269)
But the reason the Twins are betting long on a kid who is still two years away from his high school graduation is another pair of attributes scouts talk about, both inherited from his parents, former Berlin ballet stars.


There's also that if they have a German star player, they may start to develop German fans, the way the Mariners have Japanese fans. It won't bring in the kind of money the Japanese have, but every little helps.
   2. Dan Lee prefers good shortstops to great paintings Posted: August 18, 2009 at 01:23 PM (#3296286)
Between Bert Blyleven and Alexander Smit, they already own the lucrative honkbal-fan market.
   3. Gamingboy Posted: August 18, 2009 at 01:24 PM (#3296287)
Getting a star European player who is unquestionably European (Bert Blyleven was raised in the States, several players throughout history are from US Military bases in Germany, etc) would also give Baseball chance of finally breaking into the European market "big". Maybe. More than likely poor Max Kepler here would become a "Famous in a foreign land but unknown in my home town" kind of guy if he were to become a big Baseball star.
   4. tjm1 Posted: August 18, 2009 at 01:32 PM (#3296292)
More than likely poor Max Kepler here would become a "Famous in a foreign land but unknown in my home town" kind of guy if he were to become a big Baseball star.


I live in Britain right now. I think that with the internet and satellite/pay cable TV, etc., and ESPN moving into the European market, and video games for all sorts of sports not commonly played in various countries, there's a decent chance for baseball to break through in Europe. I don't think it will ever be popular, but I think baseball reaching a level of popularity in Europe similar to what soccer has in the USA is quite realistic, especially if some European stars can be developed. It's easy to see baseball games over here if you want to.

Between Bert Blyleven and Alexander Smit, they already own the lucrative honkbal-fan market.


Well, Rick Vanden Hurk is probably the most successful Dutch (or even European) major leaguer who was actually trained in Europe. He's still only 24. I think he actually has a halfway chance at least to have a ten year career.
   5. tjm1 Posted: August 18, 2009 at 01:39 PM (#3296298)
And let me put this another way:

Suppose this kid pans out, and the Twins become the most popular team in Germany by a wide margin. Suppose at the same time, this, plus other factors combine to make baseball about 1/20 as popular in Germany as it is in Minnesota. The population of Germany is a bit more than 15 times as big as the population of Minnesota. Most baseball fans in the Dakotas are Twins fans, too, I'd guess, so maybe 12 times is the more relevant ration. You'd basically increase the size of your fan base by 60% there. Sure, those people don't buy tickets very often, but they might buy merchandise, and ask ESPN America (the European ESPN channel that shows American sports) to show more Twins games, etc. And they might come over occasionally and watch a Twins game. If this kid can be even a marginal everyday player, this move could pan out very well for the Twins.
   6. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 18, 2009 at 01:41 PM (#3296301)
Ballet dancers? Which soccer team(s) do they play for?
   7. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: August 18, 2009 at 01:45 PM (#3296304)
Between Bert Blyleven and Alexander Smit, they already own the lucrative honkbal-fan market.
Actually ... kinda. The Twins have had several other Dutch players in the minors as well.

More than likely poor Max Kepler here would become a "Famous in a foreign land but unknown in my home town" kind of guy if he were to become a big Baseball star.

I bet he'd take that.
   8. McCoy Posted: August 18, 2009 at 01:58 PM (#3296323)
If this kid can be even a marginal everyday player, this move could pan out very well for the Twins.

More like it is a move that could pan out very well for MLB. Most of the dollars-urm-euros would flow into MLB coffers and then get equally distributed to all the teams from merchandise sales.
   9. joker24 Posted: August 18, 2009 at 03:01 PM (#3296415)
When I was in the Czech Republic I ran into about 4-5 guys who were HUGE baseball fans and randomly enough, Texas Rangers fans (I know, no idea why). One guy was asking me in totally broken English what to do with Nelson Cruz in a fantasy league back in May. None of them had been to an MLB game, it was pretty cool.
   10. BFFB Posted: August 18, 2009 at 03:11 PM (#3296423)
I live in Britain right now. I think that with the internet and satellite/pay cable TV, etc., and ESPN moving into the European market, and video games for all sorts of sports not commonly played in various countries, there's a decent chance for baseball to break through in Europe. I don't think it will ever be popular, but I think baseball reaching a level of popularity in Europe similar to what soccer has in the USA is quite realistic, especially if some European stars can be developed. It's easy to see baseball games over here if you want to.


Biggest kicker is two things (1) time difference (2) availability

The games are all on in the middle of the night and damn near impossible to watch unless you have Sky, Virgin Media or MLB TV. A third factor is length of games. If you're recording a games there is absolutely no way the average non-student / employed person would have the time to do anything other than watch highlights unless they were (a)already interested the sport, (b)hated football (soccer).

I don't see it ever really taking off much beyond, say, curling.
   11. tjm1 Posted: August 18, 2009 at 03:17 PM (#3296436)
The games are all on in the middle of the night and damn near impossible to watch unless you have Sky, Virgin Media or MLB TV. A third factor is length of games. If you're recording a games there is absolutely no way the average non-student / employed person would have the time to do anything other than watch highlights unless they were (a)already interested the sport, (b)hated football (soccer).


You're right that you need Sky or Virgin or MLB TV to watch anything on at a reasonable hour. However, the Fox Saturday games are on ESPN America, which I think is part of a larger ESPN package now which includes a lot of high profile soccer games on one of the other channels, and they run from about 9 to midnight. This is a reasonable time, as long as you're not going out that night. They also run the early afternoon games pretty much whenever there's a decent live game on at those hours. If you have the right TV channels, there are plenty of games on at reasonable hours.

EDIT:

It's actually much easier to watch baseball from Europe than European soccer from the USA, where the weeknight games all get moved into the workday, and the weekend afternoon games come on very early in the morning, at least if you're on the West Coast.
   12. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 18, 2009 at 03:18 PM (#3296440)
There's also that if they have a German star player, they may start to develop German fans, the way the Mariners have Japanese fans

and Furman Bisher is spinning in his grave, even though he's still alive
   13. andrewberg Posted: August 18, 2009 at 03:23 PM (#3296446)
I find it hilarious that the WSJ decided to compare the first German prospect every to Shawn Green.
   14. McCoy Posted: August 18, 2009 at 03:25 PM (#3296454)
Why the need to watch the game live? Especially baseball in Europe. How common is it to be walking down the streets of Berlin and have a fellow Twins fan tell you the score of a game you plan on watching that night? Hell, I remember watching taped delayed NBA playoff games in the 1980's. Live is meaningless, everyone ####### that they can't watch the playoffs live because of the time. Why does it matter?
   15. tjm1 Posted: August 18, 2009 at 03:33 PM (#3296470)
Why the need to watch the game live? Especially baseball in Europe. How common is it to be walking down the streets of Berlin and have a fellow Twins fan tell you the score of a game you plan on watching that night? Hell, I remember watching taped delayed NBA playoff games in the 1980's. Live is meaningless, everyone ####### that they can't watch the playoffs live because of the time. Why does it matter?


1) It's easy to accidentally catch the score on the internet if you're not careful.

2) The MLB TV viewer is poorly designed, and if you want to skip over the commercial breaks, you have to do a "jump to inning" on the linescore. The NFL has a much superior internet viewer.
   16. McCoy Posted: August 18, 2009 at 03:37 PM (#3296483)
So watching live at 2 in the morning is the better option than having to "jump to inning" at 7 at night?


1) It's easy to accidentally catch the score on the internet if you're not careful.


It's easy to die if you are not careful. People should take some responsibility in their life and baseball in Europe hasn't reached a saturation point where it would be difficult for a European fan to go about a normal day and not see the score.
   17. tjm1 Posted: August 18, 2009 at 03:39 PM (#3296488)
McCoy, I tend to watch day games live, and night games on the MLB archive, but I'd be much happier if MLB would add the "Hide Scores" feature that the NFL seems to have mastered the technology to add.
   18. Flynn Posted: August 18, 2009 at 05:49 PM (#3296720)

2) The MLB TV viewer is poorly designed, and if you want to skip over the commercial breaks, you have to do a "jump to inning" on the linescore. The NFL has a much superior internet viewer.


I'd hope so considering the total ripoff the NFL's internet package is. $250 to watch ONE team's games for a season? F**k off, I'll watch it on a pirated stream.

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