Kepler is from Berlin, the son of ballet dancers. His father is Polish and his mother is American. Scouts refer to Max as being graceful and he has the smooth graceful actions of a ballet dancer. He is a very athletic, very coordinated big man.
Kepler's mother is from San Antonio. She joined the Berlin ballet in 1984, where she met her husband, ballet dancer and amateur soccer player Marek Rozycki, a native of Poland.
"My mom really got me into baseball," said Kepler, who was once offered a scholarship to the Steffi Graf Tennis Foundation. "She was putting me in all kinds of sports to see what I would like. I played baseball for a public team and had a great coach. I had great coaches with every team I played for in Germany."
His mother is from Texas and his father defected from Poland to Germany. Professional ballet dancers, they met while performing with the same company in Berlin. Kepler, obviously, comes by some of his athletic ability naturally. It was also passed on to his younger sister, formerly a top German golfer.
Neither was pushed to the ballet, for obvious reasons in the son's case. "I was six-feet as an early teen," he said. "That's too tall for the ballet."
Kepler, now 6-feet-4, was introduced to baseball at age 6 while attending the John F. Kennedy American School in Berlin and played Little League before becoming part of Germany's national team at 14.
Soccer was his No. 1 team sport, though, and at first he didn't know what to think when he was first approached by the Twins. In fact, he didn't even really know what a scout was. Kepler, though, decided to put soccer and Germany behind him, heading to the country of his mother's birth, which he hardly knew.
"I don't think I realized how many had the dream of baseball in the United States and that I would just be one of so many," he said.
Kepler attended a private school and training at an academy in Regensburg, Germany. After signing with the Twins at age 16, he moved to the United States and began his junior year at South Fort Myers High School in Florida, which is across the street from the Twins' training facility there.
"I didn’t really spread the word that I played pro baseball,” Kepler said about his time in high school, “but it got out and I just kept it on the low because I didn’t want to cause a scene or anything. I just wanted to go there and finish school, and then go across the street and play baseball. But it was a good experience. American schools are a lot different than German schools, and it was fun.”
In 2009 and 2010, Max spent 16 months earning his high school diploma, getting his driver's license, adapting to a foreign country—and learning baseball from the Twins.
In 2010, Baseball America rated Kepler as the 10th-best prospect in the Twins' organization. And he was at #11 in the winter before 2011 spring training. They had Max at #20 in the offseason before 2012 spring camps opened. And he moved back up, coming in at #8 in the winter before 2013 spring training.
They had Max at #11 in the spring of 2014, and at #12 a year later in 2015. But Kepler worked his way all the way up to third-best Twins prospect in the offseason before 2016 spring training.
Kepler is the second German-raised Major Leaguer. The first was outfielder Donald Lutz, who was born in New York but moved to Germany at age 1. He made his big league debut with the Reds in 2013. (ESPN.com - 4/19/16)
Max is fluent in three languages.
In 2012, Kepler played for Germany in the World Baseball Classic Qualifier in Germany.
In 2012, Max led the Appalachian League in slugging (.539) and total bases (125) while ranking second in extra-base hits (31) and RBIs (49).
In 2015, Kepler led the Southern League in on-base percentage (.416) and slugging (.531) and ranked second in the batting race (.322) and with 54 extra-base hits. One scout said Kepler was the most big league-ready prospect in the league. He was the MVP of the SL in 2015.
- Max's parents and sister come to the U.S. each summer to see him play, and he gets back to Germany for a month at Christmas.
"It's good to go back home, but this is where I belong now," he said midway through the 2015 season. "I still have a lot to learn. I want to soak in everything I'm told and continue to get better so I can make the Major Leagues. That became my dream when I signed with the Twins."
In 2015, Kepler was chosen to represent the Twins in the All-Star Futures Game.
MLB debut - September 27, 2015: After the very last game of his first season as Twins manager, Paul Molitor realized he had forgotten something.
Young right fielder Max Kepler had stroked the first hit of his Major League career in the third inning of an otherwise forgettable loss to the Royals, so Molitor headed back into the home clubhouse at Target Field to commemorate the achievement.
Clutching a baseball in his right hand, a smiling Molitor worked his way toward Kepler’s locker and made the presentation with a full contingent of media in the room. The 22-year-old rookie struggled to hold back his emotions as he gave a short speech to thank his teammates, even the ones that had forced him to sing Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” for the group.
“It’s an honor to have a ball handed to you by Paul Molitor,” Kepler said later. “I’ll remember this day forever.”
Not only did Kepler, son of Polish and American ballet dancers, become the first player born and raised in Germany to record a hit in the Major Leagues, he did so by ripping a full-count slider from Johnny Cueto.
"He looks like he belongs,” Molitor said after watching Kepler during his 12-day call-up. “He’s just got that presence." (Mike Berardino - Baseball America - 1/15/2016)
Don't tell Mr. October. His ego hardly needs the help.
However, something seemed to click for the Twins rookie Max Kepler after he received a brief tutorial from Reggie Jackson before a June 25, 2016 game at Yankee Stadium. Kepler's hitting explosion then produced 12 homers, 32 RBI's and a .649 slugging percentage in the next 31 games after he met Reggie. The message was about using batting practice to spray the ball around the field rather than seeing how far you can hit the ball to the pull side.
"I'm 70 years old and I can do that," Jackson famously barked. "Let me see you go the other way."
In his 31 games (and 89 at-bats) in 2016, prior to that summit, Kepler slugged just .416 with 2 homers and 12 RBI's. Any connection?
"It enlightened me to work on different stuff in BP which could translate over into the games," Kepler said. "It's not like every day I remind myself what Reggie said, but I have a plan now." (Mike Beradino - St.Paul Pioneer Press - August 2, 2016)
March 2017: A German camera crew flew to Fort Myers, Florida to document Kepler as an Major League star in the making.
Max's youth coach said, "When I coached Max from a young age, I would put him in competitive environments, doesn’t matter what sport. I put him in a race against two track girls who ran 400 meters. They were 16, he was 12, and we did a training regimen called the running pyramid where you run one minute, take a minute break, run two minutes, take a minute break, and we were all four doing it together.
And when the pyramid was going down? I was 28, and I was like, ‘I’m dying, I can’t do this anymore.’ And the girls were cruising. And Max was cruising alongside with me and I’m like, ‘Alright, I’m gonna see how competitive this kid is.’ And out of the blue I say, ‘Max, if you beat those two girls–who were already ahead of us, like 300 meters–‘If you beat those girls, I’ll give you my Roger Clemens rookie card.’ And the minute starts, and he takes off, beats them by a mile.” (Reuben Walker - The Hardball Times - March 19, 2019)
May 12, 2019: When Kepler was signed by the Twins and moved from Germany to Fort Myers, Fla., at age 17, his mother, Kathy, came across the Atlantic with him and remained in the United States until the young outfielder graduated from South Fort Myers High School. Kathy Kepler, a former ballet dancer, cooked and cleaned for Max and drove him around while he completed his studies and adjusted to life in the United States.
"She sacrificed plenty of time where she could be doing other things to bring me to soccer practice, baseball practice, to go out of her way to make time for her children, which I think every mother should do," Kepler said. "I owe her big-time."
Kathy Kepler lives in Germany again, but tries to fly out to the United States once or twice a year.
"I wish they were closer," Max Kepler said. "I've been out of the house since I was 14, so I'm used to it. But parents are a big necessity in the upbringing of young people." (DH Park - MLB.com - May 12, 2019)
August 16, 2019: Max’s fourth-inning blast may have come in the American heartland of Texas, but it wrote him into the international record books. Kepler’s 33 homers in 2019 set the single-season Major League record for most homers by a European-born player.
With the two-run shot against Rangers left-hander Mike Minor, the German-born Kepler broke the record that belonged to Scotland native Bobby Thomson, who clubbed 32 homers for the New York Giants in 1951. You might have heard of Thomson’s final blast that season, the famous “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” against the Brooklyn Dodgers on Oct. 3, 1951, that clinched the National League pennant. (Park - mlb.com)
Kepler's full name is actually Maximilian Kepler-Rozycki. It was the last name of his Polish father, Marek Rozycki. When he first came to the United States and began his baseball career, he considered using the hyphenated last name but stuck with only Kepler, his mother's name.
Entering the 2020 season, Kepler is the WAR leader for the Twins. OF (11.5 WAR): The second half of the last decade for the Twins had so much turnaround that a lot of young players are going to be tossing this title back and forth over the next few years, one suspects. (Will Leitch - Mar. 22, 2020)
July 2009: Kepler signed for $800,000 with the Twins, at age 16, as a free agent. Several scouts said Max was the best European prospect to come along in years. Max was signed by scouts Glen Godwin, Andy Johnson and Howard Norsetter. (Andy Johnson has known Max since he was 14 years old.)
He was at a tournament in Germany when Kepler caught his eye. Kepler’s bonus could be the highest for a position player in European history—$775,000. Max has a San Francisco-based agent, Paul Cobbe of Sosnick-Cobbe Sports.
- January 11, 2019: Max and the Twins avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year deal for $3.1 million.