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Kepler is new European-born home run king

No. 33 breaks mark Bobby Thomson set with 'Shot Heard 'Round the World' in 1951
@dohyoungpark
August 17, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Max Kepler’s fourth-inning blast on Friday 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 player born in Europe. "I'm super honored," Kepler

ARLINGTON -- Max Kepler’s fourth-inning blast on Friday 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 player born in Europe.

"I'm super honored," Kepler said. "It's special. I would have never even dreamt of getting to this level a couple of years before. And to be doing this, it's living the dream."

With a 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.

Kepler actually hadn't.

"No, I hadn't before last night," he said Saturday. "Had you guys heard of him before last night?"

Kepler’s record-breaking shot didn’t change the course of baseball like Thomson’s homer did, but it did give the Twins an early 2-0 lead on their way to a 4-3 win at Globe Life Park.

The 26-year-old Kepler, who was signed to a five-year extension during the offseason, has long since passed his previous career-high mark of 20 homers, and he has increased his home run total in each of his four full seasons in the Major Leagues. With No. 33, he reclaimed sole possession of the team lead from injured slugger Nelson Cruz.

"I don't really expect much of myself each year," Kepler said. "I just get down, get dirty, get to work and try and make the most of what I have to work with. Just keep it simple. Luckily, I had someone remind me yesterday to keep it simple because the at-bats before, the games before, I was swinging out of my shoes a bit and getting ahead of myself."

Kepler, a Berlin native, hopes that his success will help reinforce MLB’s continued marketing efforts in Europe and the proliferation of the sport across the continent. Kepler himself grew up playing baseball in Germany before he joined the Twins’ organization as an international signing in 2009 and moved to Florida to complete his high school education.

"The more players that come out of Europe and perform and have success at this level, the more attention we'll get," Kepler said. "Obviously, individuals can make the most out of doing camps in the winters, which I'm going to do this winter, and just spread it through the youth. That's where it starts, getting kids interested."

Romo takes Dobnak on shopping trip

Sergio Romo said he'd never seen a sight quite like it before.

During the Twins' recent two-game swing through Milwaukee on the first leg of this road trip, the veteran reliever caught a glimpse of rookie Randy Dobnak -- and stopped dead. Romo sized up the 24-year-old Dobnak -- from the tube socks in tennis shoes -- "He doesn't play tennis, either,” Romo said. “That's the best part." -- to the shorts to the trucker hat perched on top of the mustached head.

"Then I looked up and he's got like a Van Halen T-shirt," Romo said. "That was great. Nothing wrong with that. That was great."

Romo gave the rookie some good-natured ribbing in front of the team but then turned serious.

"Hey, tomorrow, 11:30, lobby," he told Dobnak. "See you there."

"What?" Dobnak replied.

"Doesn't matter," the veteran said. "Don't ask any questions. I'll see you at 11:30."

At 11:30 the next morning, Romo was waiting in the lobby with his wife and kid, with an Uber waiting outside the hotel lobby. Dobnak found them, they all hopped into the car and sped off to a nearby mall, where Romo treated Dobnak to a shopping spree.

Dobnak had grown up in South Park, Pa., on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, before he was undrafted out of Division II Alderson Broaddus University in rural West Virginia.

"He's a guy that had never been in Nordstrom's before," Romo said.

"You hear his story, it's no Draft, no nothing like that," Romo added. "It's indy ball, it's [driving] Uber, and gets an opportunity in indy ball and Low-A and High-A and all of a sudden, he's in the Show.

"He's coming to the big leagues at 24. My first four innings in the big leagues were not zeroes. His were. Like, you know what I'm saying? This is a special story. It's legit. It takes a unique individual to do that, and go figure, he's here and he's just showing who he is."

Even as one of the newest members of the Twins' clubhouse, Romo is already making his presence felt.

"It's not that I have to do it," Romo said. "I'm not saying he has to do this, 'Here's the torch, keep it going, kid.' It's just that he needed help. He's a teammate of mine that needed help, and it's something that he wouldn't have done for himself."

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.