Tyler Kepner, a journalist from The New York Times, came to Rutgers to talk about the release of his new book, “K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches” on Wednesday, Nov. 13.
Kepner has been a national baseball reporter for The New York Times since 2010. He began his career at the publication in 2000, cultivating his passion for sports journalism by covering the New York Mets for two seasons. From 2002 to 2009 he covered the New York Yankees.
Kepner highlighted his opinion on the art and craft of baseball pitches, modern-day baseball journalism and how it has changed.
He said that the whole premise behind his book was centered not around players themselves, but rather the analyzation of the 10 baseball pitches.
“Why don't we expand ... instead of making those 2 or 3 pitchers the characters, we make the pitches themselves the characters and then I can dive into what made them so great and what made those guys great? If you made this sinker a character, how would we talk about it? Who were the kind of people to learn that pitch, where did they learn it and how did they apply it?” Kepner said.
He went on: “If you threw these 10 particular pitches, well I was going to try to find you, even if you weren't a hall of fame kind of guy, as long as you were in that era. Those were the guys I wanted to get and it was great, it was like a scavenger hunt.”
In the lecture, Kepner also highlighted how baseball journalism has changed over time, to mirror what he experienced. Kepner references the movie “Almost Famous,” written and directed by Cameron Crowe, as a way to resemble what is happening with modern-day baseball journalists.
“It's about a kid who is 15 years old and is really eager to get into the writing business into the rock and roll world and he sees the whole other side of it, but he is still so wide-eyed and genuine about his love of the industry for music," he said. "They tell him that music isn't the same anymore, it's the death rattle, and he said 'I'm here for that.' I feel like that maybe baseball doesn't have the exact same hold on America as it did in the 50s or the 80s. I'm not sure if that's true but that's what a lot of people are thinking, but I don't really care because right now is a really fun time for a baseball writer and I want to be there for it.”
Kepner fell in love with baseball from a young age, particularly pitching because of Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Steve Carlton, his favorite baseball pitcher at the time. Kepner made an entire career from baseball without playing.
“You know I can’t throw lefty, can’t throw in the 90s with a killer slider but I can try. I became a pitcher in middle school, high school, little leagues and that's as far as I went ... at Vanderbilt (University) I realized what I wanted to do: I wanted to immerse myself in baseball through journalism,” Kepner said.