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Thursday, Apr 27, 2017

Baseball, blogs, and now a book for N.J. teen

“Hey baseball fans!”

With that exuberant opening — a deliberate nod to New York Yankees broadcasting icon Mel Allen — New Jersey teenager Matt Nadel dives into his baseball history blog, a fresh look at the game’s past that combines statistics, trivia and youthful enthusiasm.

Nadel, 15, is a 10-grader at Golda Och Academy, but already owns an impressive résumé. Since his April 2, 2012, debut post for “Baseball With Matt” (http://baseballwithmatt.mlblogs.com/) as a 13-year-old on Google Blogger, Nadel has published 300 entries. He shifted to MLB Pro Blog after his 80th post, and celebrated No. 300 on Oct. 5. An admitted YouTube fan, Nadel marked his milestone by appearing in a video he posted on — you guessed it — YouTube:

“A lot of people in school think it’s awesome, but I’m just a regular student,” Nadel said from his home in Springfield, New Jersey, which is just a wedge shot from the famous Baltusrol Golf Course.

Regular? Perhaps, because of his love for video games, chocolate ice cream with Rice Krispies and baseball. But he also won his school’s Geography Bee as an eighth grader — and among his friends, only Nadel can claim he is a published author. That’s awesome.

“Amazing Aaron to Zero Zippers: An Introduction to Baseball History” (Summer Game Books; eBook; 96 pages) is an A-to-Z primer of baseball’s best players and teams, fun facts and exciting events. It’s a book that can be read with equal enjoyment by both kids and adults, and it contains more than 50 photographs from the archives of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and The Associated Press.

“Matt’s infectious, youthful enthusiasm for the game comes through in each blog post that he writes, each video that he posts on his YouTube channel, and now in each chapter of this book,” Hall of Famer Jim Palmer writes in the foreword.

Right now, the book only can be purchased for Kindle, Nook and Apple iTune devices. Summer Game Books plans to release a hard copy in February.

Nadel said all proceeds from book sales will go to four baseball charities: the Jackie Robinson Foundation, the ALS Foundation, the Hall of Fame’s charity and Derek Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation.

Nadel approaches baseball history from a kid’s perspective in 26 readable chapters, including the two that comprise the book’s title. Other chapters have titles like “Quality Quips,” “Kings of K,” “Fabulous Fields,” “Unbelievable Underdogs” and “Vigorous Victors.” He said the most difficult part of writing the book was “getting all of the details” and putting them in a form much longer than his usual blog posts.

“I knew the basic stuff, but I didn’t know the whole shebang,” he said.

Like uniforms.

“I didn’t know the history of the uniforms,” Nadel said.

There are some quick, punchy chapters on Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Cy Young and Walter Johnson. The accuracy is impressive, although I saw at least two mistakes. One was a reference to Babe Ruth making the final out of the 1926 World Series in the top of the ninth (the game was played at Yankee Stadium so it was the bottom of the inning), and the other noted that Bucky Dent’s famous homer in the 1978 A.L. East single-game playoff helped the Yankees tie the Red Sox (actually, the three-run shot put New York ahead, 3-2).

The book also has a timeline that gives the reader an at-a-glance look at baseball history.

The first baseball book Nadel read was about his favorite baseball team — “The New York Yankees: Legendary Sports Teams,” by Matt Christopher and Glenn Stout. His favorite baseball authors are Marty Appel (“Pinstripe Empire”) and Roger Kahn (“The Boys of Summer,” etc.).

“My mom complains that I don’t read enough novels,” Nadel said.

A suggestion: Philip Roth’s 1973 satire “The Great American Novel,” which uses baseball as a key theme as readers learn the story of the fictional World War II era Patriot League and the Ruppert Mundys.

An aspiring broadcaster — “I plan to major in communications” in college —Nadel attended the Bruce Beck & Ian Eagle Sports Broadcasting Camp in July at the Yogi Berra Museum. He is at ease in front of the camera, having been a guest on MLB Network and Nickelodeon’s “Nick News,” and can hold up his end of the conversation during a telecast. “Obviously I’m a kid and they (broadcasters) may look at me as underrated, but as soon as they see I know it (baseball history), then they are very excited to talk about it,” he said.

Nadel has shown tenacity in landing interviews for his blog. In August 2013, he did email interviews with baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, comedian Billy Crystal and former president George W. Bush. He has interviewed Hall of Famers like Henry Aaron, Palmer and Yogi Berra, and also former players like Fred Lynn (his first interview in 2012) and Ron Blomberg (his first in-person interview). In February, he ventured outside baseball to interview Betzalel Friedman, the commissioner of the Israel Football League.

Crystal “was very quick to respond” to Nadel’s interview request, and Palmer also reached out by telephone and “was a great guy.” Getting an interview with a former president, however, was trickier.

Nadel found out Bush’s email address and wrote him. “He declined, but he sent me an autographed picture,” he said. But the young blogger had an ace in the hole — his father, a lawyer in New York, worked with Marvin Bush, the former president’s youngest brother. Dad gave the email to Marvin, who forwarded it to his brother. Nadel soon had some presidential responses.

Not everyone has been accommodating. Nadel’s favorite player, Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, “rejected me.” Fellow Hall of Famer Willie Mays also declined.

However, Nadel does have his own bucket list of future interview subjects, including another run at Schmidt. Others on the list: Frank Robinson (“he seems to have been underrated”), comedian Jerry Seinfeld, NBA icon Michael Jordan and President Barack Obama.

And when he is not blogging or playing video games on the weekend, Nadel is playing baseball. He was a bench-warmer as a freshman on his high school team, but is versatile enough to play second base (he did in middle school) or all three outfield positions.

Despite his love of baseball history, Nadel does not collect baseball cards. Nevertheless, if Topps is listening, I nominate Nadel for the 2015 Allen & Ginter baseball card set. The A&G cards are always an eclectic group; besides, if Topps can include U.S. national texting champion Austin Wierschke in its 2014 set, they can add “MLB.com’s youngest baseball history pro blogger.”

Just sayin’.

Nadel has visited Cooperstown and attended Game 1 of the 2009 World Series at Yankee Stadium. His next goal: attend spring training in Florida. His grandparents live in Delray Beach on the state’s east coast during the winter, and Nadel is hoping to catch some games next March.

While Nadel said he won’t be writing another book, he will continue to blog, make videos and educate readers of all ages. He has a strong presence on Twitter (nearly 4,700 follow him) and like his mentor, baseball historian John Thorn, will continue to retweet photos and baseball facts he deems relevant.

As Nadel exhorts his blog readers in his signature ending, “check back in a few days for all the buzz on what wuzz.”

“Amazing Aaron to Zero Zippers” “wuzz” a good, fun read.

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