ShareThis Page

Biertempfel: Kendall's book offers inside look at life in majors

Rob Biertempfel
| Saturday, April 19, 2014, 8:44 p.m.
Pirates catcher Jason Kendall moves for the catch against the Rockies at Coors Field in Denver on May 11, 2004.
Getty Images
Pirates catcher Jason Kendall moves for the catch against the Rockies at Coors Field in Denver on May 11, 2004.

Since Jason Kendall retired in July 2012 after 15 years as catcher in the major leagues, he has taken on a few new job titles.

Kendall, 39, is a special assignment coach with the Kansas City Royals, the final big league team for which he played.

Kendall is a single father, raising his 10-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. He coaches his son's youth league baseball team and chauffeurs his daughter to gymnastics practice and competitions.

“I'm a freakin' soccer mom,” Kendall said, laughing. “And I love it. It's the best job in the world.”

The other day, Kendall took a break from shopping for Easter candy and chatted with me by phone from a Starbucks stand inside a Target. I'd called about the newest line on his resume, the one nobody — especially Kendall — saw coming.

Jason Kendall is an author.

“Me? An author?” Kendall said. “(Shucks), I can't do my son's fourth-grade math homework.”

OK, technically Kendall is a co-author. He and Lee Judge, a political cartoonist for the Kansas City Star, have produced “Throwback,” which will be in stores next month.

The book bills itself as “a big league catcher tells how the game is really played.” It's Kendall's version of a baseball primer, examining the game's nuances and strategies. The former Pirates catcher describes how runners try to steal signs, where the infielders should set up with runners on first and third and one out, how a catcher lobbies an umpire and why Kendall believes many of today's players are spoiled sissies who won't play through pain.

“It's really just common-sense stuff, but a lot of people don't know it,” Kendall said.

Early in the book, Kendall talks about his role in a July 21, 2009, benches-clearing incident between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Pirates. The Brewers went into the game with a grudge against pitcher Jeff Karstens, who'd plunked slugger Ryan Braun three months earlier. In the eighth inning, as Karstens came to the plate, Kendall, the Brewers' catcher that day, went to the mound.

“I told my rookie pitcher he needed to drill this guy,” Kendall says in the book. “The kid said OK and got the job done. ... Keep that in mind when you're watching a game: If someone visits the mound and the hitter gets smoked on the next pitch. you may have just seen someone taking care of some unfinished business.”

Kendall once figured he had suffered at least seven concussions in the first 10 years of his career. In 1999, Kendall wound up in the hospital after a collision with Gary Sheffield. This spring after Kendall's book went to press, MLB put in new rules to try to reduce the number of home-plate pileups.

“I don't like it because I think it's one of the most exciting plays in the game,” Kendall said. “At the same time, I wish we had that rule when I played. You've got to change with the times, and that's what they're doing. I can sit here and (complain) about it, but I stopped playing four years ago. Things change.”

Is that fodder for Kendall's next book? He laughed again. Kendall received an advance copy of “Throwback” but hasn't opened it.

“I haven't read it,” Kendall said. “I probably won't read it.”

Kendall doesn't have to read it. After all, he lived it.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.