Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 28, 2020.
When prospective clients enter Kevin Maas' office in California’s Bay Area, they frequently inspect the over-sized photograph of a good-looking man in Yankees pinstripes, using a sweet left-handed stroke to pummel a baseball toward oblivion.
On those occasions, Maas smiles, unspooling tales of the time when this present-day certified financial planner was one of the biggest stories in New York sports. It has been 30 years since Maas burst onto the scene as a rookie phenom, electrifying a dormant Bombers season by setting a then-Major League record with 10 homers in his first 77 at-bats.
“I'd get in these swings where I would go on a tear and everything I hit seemed to have home run stamped on it,” Maas said. “I had 13 home runs in about a month and a half at Triple-A and the Yankees weren't doing well; I think they were in last place. There was really no reason to not give me a chance. Maybe I came up in less of a pressure cooker because of that.”
The cellar-dwelling Yankees were 15 games behind the division-leading Red Sox when Maas received his call to the big leagues on June 29, 1990. Manager Stump Merrill scribbled the 25-year-old’s name into that evening’s lineup at Comiskey Park, and Maas recalls his nerves being calmed by the fact that he had faced White Sox star Jack McDowell several times during their college careers.
Maas registered his first hit that night, then cleared the wall five days later, slugging a homer to right field off the Royals’ Bret Saberhagen on the Fourth of July in Kansas City. The road was good that summer to Maas (a few weeks later, he hit the first of two career homers off Nolan Ryan), but one of his favorite memories came on Old-Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium.
“I was introduced to Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford and Phil Rizzuto,” Maas recalls. “Bobby Richardson was my locker buddy; back then, we shared a locker with the Old-Timers, so I got to know Bobby well. As I left the clubhouse to go down the tunnel to the dugout, I saw Joe DiMaggio standing there, waiting to go down onto the field.
“I took a moment to introduce myself, shook his hand and just tried to capture the moment, in awe that I was meeting the Yankee Clipper himself. He had this aura about him. He didn't dress in the uniform that day like Mickey, like Whitey, like Phil. I was afraid to ask him for an autograph, but the chance to meet him was amazing. I went out that day and hit two home runs, so that was pretty special.”
Maas finished the 1990 season with 21 homers in 79 games, and was the runner-up to the Indians’ Sandy Alomar Jr. in the American League Rookie of the Year chase. The bar was set high for the future, and Maas heard his name frequently mentioned as the heir apparent to first baseman Don Mattingly, for whom injuries were about to derail a track toward the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
“Donnie Baseball taught me so much about the game,” Maas said. “He was the consummate professional. Donnie said to me, 'Kev, I'll do whatever it takes. I'll take grounders at third base if it means you and me getting in the lineup together.' He was serious, I think, when he said that. He was always just like, ‘Hey, whatever it takes for us to win, let's do it.’ That spoke volumes about him as a person and as a teammate.”
Provided a full season to showcase his swing in 1991, Maas slugged 23 homers in 500 at-bats, but the magic was fading. Maas managed a .723 OPS, down from .902 the year prior, as pitchers’ adjustments made it difficult for the pull-happy slugger to pepper the short right-field porch in The Bronx.
“I was a more of a gap-to-gap hitter most of my career,” Maas said. “Towards the last two or three years before I got called up, I became quite a bit of a pull hitter, especially when I got to New York. It worked against me after the first couple of years. I didn't really make the adjustments the last couple years, and injuries had a lot to do with that.”
With the Yankees unknowingly a few years away from a dynasty, Maas’ time in New York was up after the 1993 season. He played a season in Japan, then returned to the Majors with the Twins in ‘95, but a slowing bat produced a .193 average in 22 games. Maas attended Spring Training with the Yanks in '96, but a groin injury ended his hopes of making a team that seemed well-heeled with Tino Martinez at first base.
With 65 big league homers to his name, Maas set his sights upon a second career, aiming to use his mechanical engineering degree from the University of California Berkeley. He spent several years in the insurance and mortgage industries, connecting with clients on sensitive matters. In 2007, Maas landed with the Charles Schwab firm in his hometown of Castro Valley, Calif., where he focuses on private wealth management.
“I have to say, I never thought I'd be managing other people's money,” Maas said. “I took a shot and said, ‘Hey, get out of your comfort zone a little bit and see if you like it.’ It’s not a whole lot unlike baseball, where you’re trying to stretch yourself to the next level and testing yourself every day to work on your weaknesses.”
Though his nine-hour workdays revolve around counseling on investment strategies, Maas said that baseball remains close to his heart. He frequently makes the 25-minute drive to the Oakland Coliseum, checking in on a friend in Athletics manager Bob Melvin, and he scans the out-of-town scores to see how the Yankees are doing.
Each February, Maas said that he checks his mailbox, hoping for an invite to put the pinstripes back on for that summer’s Old-Timers’ Day festivities.
“The last Old-Timers’ Day I was at [in 2017], I was with Brian Cashman and he said, 'Isn't it pretty cool that after all these years, you’re part of the family?’” Maas said. “My name's not Yogi or Mickey, guys that could show up and wave to the crowd, so everybody else needs to put in some time on the field. I'm a little banged up, but if I get the call, I'm there. I have a big heart with New York and with the Yankees. I'll never not be that way.”