San Francisco, CA – Scrolling through his iphone, Matt Kemp starts to get ready for batting practice. The hype of the MLB All-Star game is over and for this center fielder it’s back to work. No emotion over making his first All-Star game or that his appearances on national television have increased.
“Nothing’s changed to me, I’m still the same person that began this season with a goal to win,” Kemp said. “It’s not enough, we’re not in first place so there’s still work to be done.”
He’s right with twenty-five games left to play, it’s a race to the postseason. The Los Angeles Dodgers have been soaring during the month of August in hopes to close the gap behind the second place Worlds Series Champs, the San Francisco Giants who have been struggling. But they will have to get past the first place Arizona Diamondbacks who have won nine straight games. Now the sites have turned to the wild card race and the Atlanta Braves currently hold that position in the National League West.
Despite the financial woes amongst the organization, it’s been a magical season for Matt, the dream of becoming the best is actually coming true. Every year many athletes set a goal to become better but usually duplicate what they’ve done in years past. This season is unlike any other for Kemp, he’s been making a strong case for the MVP race throughout the year.
Growing up in Midwest City, Oklahoma City, Matt was very athletic amongst his peers playing basketball and on occasion baseball with neighborhood friends. If it wasn’t for his father who pushed him to further his career in baseball, we may have lost him to the NBA.
“My dad is the reason I’m playing baseball,” he explained. “I’m very fortunate to play a sport that I love, though I was good in basketball too. Baseball is a sport where you can travel, meet new people and fulfill your dreams.”
Last year Kemp was the victim of public scrutiny and got pressure from senior management who felt the rising star was losing his way. Many thought he became the black sheep and distanced himself from the team. That was the turning point in his career, a more dedicated and spiritual young man evolved determined to make his happiness the key to his success.
“When I’m happy, I play better and that’s just it,” said Kemp. “I’m more spiritual and listen to a lot of gospel before games and really just try to find ways to stay positive throughout the season.”
In 2010 Matt finished the season with 31 home runs, 100 RBI and 19 steals. This year he is one of the league leaders with 31 home runs, 102 RBI, 35 stolen bases and has a batting average of .320. Matching his season average from last season Kemp has been outstanding. He was also voted as a starter in the National League MLB All-Star game for the first time in his career.
With speed and power he’s able to beat you with a base hit or long ball, and is far beyond the complete player. He’s versatile in offense and defense which is a threat in all aspects of the game. The troubles that loom over the Dodgers hasn’t effected Matt as a player. He remains focused on winning and making his team better.
“We have to play through the ups and downs of management. It’s out of our hands and our job is to win games and be the best at what we do, that’s it.”
Reaching milestones this season, he recently made to the 30-30 club with a walk-off home run in the 11th inning for the victory over the Colorado Rockies August 27th. His third walk-off this season, Matt recorded his 31st home run of the year and there’s still plenty of baseball to be played. He’s one of the top leaders in the National League in home runs, runs batted in and batting average.
There’s no doubt Kemp is a star player and his heroics during the game determine that. The Dodgers have not played their best baseball this season especially when it comes to close games but when you have a guy like Matt on your team expect the unexpected. Lately, they’ve resembled the LA team of the past with come back wins.
At the age of 27 he is by far one of the best players in the game. Kemp’s at the peak of his career and will continue to get better, a triple threat with speed, agility and good looks this young center fielder is only beginning his road to success. They say good things come to those who wait and for this Midwest City native, that time has finally come.
Written by: Malaika Bobino