Debrief: He’s Keith Hernandez

Between the lines: Some baseball innovations are fair and some are foul, says slick-fielding, clutch-hitting Mets legend Keith Hernandez.

Though a particular fandom knows him best for a brief but bright cameo on the classic sitcom “Seinfeld” (26 years ago!), millions still revere Keith Hernandez as a field general and the steadiest bat of the world champion 1986 New York Mets. Millions more know him now as part of the Metropolitans’ highly regarded broadcasting team, and Hernandez – who collected 11 Gold Glove Awards, five All-Star Selections, two World Series titles and a National League MVP in a stellar 16-year Major League Baseball career – hopes also to find an audience for his recently released biography, “I’m Keith Hernandez: A Memoir.” The author and Sag Harbor favorite discussed his fifth book, this chronicling his early struggles in professional ball, with Innovate LI on June 13, before appearing as part of a sports-tech innovation panel at The Spur @ The Station in Southampton, then catching up with the Mets in Denver this week. The colorful commentary of legendary No. 17:

Now batting: The book is mainly about my formative years, coming up, all the struggles I had. People know me in New York and St. Louis for the finished product, but they don’t know the tough road it was to get there.

Situational hitting: I also thought I was out of the game long enough to be able to write a perspective of how the game has changed. The game is going through some radical changes right now, with all the analytics and stuff, and I felt I had been out and up in the booth long enough to examine it.

Lineup card: This is my fifth book – my fourth baseball book, and I did a children’s book, for charity, that was put together by a guy at Elaine’s restaurant in the city. It was a pop-up book, called “First Base Hero,” about the little guy who makes good.

Pinch hitter: I had a ghostwriter (for the new book). I can write, but I’ve always had a ghostwriter – Mike Poncy, a guy who played baseball at Dartmouth. He did a great job.

Playing the shift: I think the sport has become too technical. Much more based on analytics. They have so much information now, with the computers, and teams are very reliant on it.

Let’s go up to the booth: There are so many advances in the camerawork and other technology since I started (broadcasting, in 2000). Super-slow motion wasn’t around in my day – I really wish they had that when I played. From my view, as a player who watched broadcasts to what’s available to us now, it has really progressed.

Call to the bullpen: What’s really great is having the Elias Sports Bureau at our fingertips, which is something Ralph Kiner and Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy didn’t have. We have a direct line to Elias, so if we have a question we will get that answer immediately. That’s pretty amazing.

Rallying back: What’s good about the game is I think it’s coming back a little bit. I think it’s getting away from the guys who thought they were going to be the neo-Branch Rickeys, they guys who were going to reinvent the game through analytics.

Game of inches: It’s still 90 feet to first base and 60 feet, 6 inches to the mound, still humans out there playing the game.

Ya gotta believe? I don’t know what’s wrong (with the Mets). They just can’t hit.

Interview by Gregory Zeller


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