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

| Saturday, April 19, 2014, 8:44 p.m.
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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 rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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