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Don’t put away your Matt Kemp jersey away just yet – Part One

August 5, 2014

Last Tuesday (July 29th) I made my way to Chavez Ravine for the first time in 2014. I’d been selling or giving away tickets most of the year but given all the trade talk about Matt Kemp, and the Vin Scully trinket, I felt that this game should be my first game.  I’ll be brutally honest, I mainly follow the team out of habit, some habits are hard to kick. I had little emotional connection with this billion dollar conglomerate of awful contracts, but the manic Puig, the brilliance of Kershaw, and of course Vinny keeps me around the fringes of blue.  It didn’t help any that my favorite Dodger was a shell of himself as I drove to the game.

Matt Kemp and Dodger Thoughts came hand in hand for me. I started with Jon Weisman’s Dodger Thoughts in Aug of 2004.  Matt Kemp had been drafted by the Dodgers in the sixth round of the 2003 draft, thus 2004 was his first real professional work. As the 2005 Dodgers turned to dust, many of us at Dodger Thoughts turned to the minor leagues for comfort. Most of them stopped at the Jacksonville Five, but I kept going, and Matt Kemp caught my eye with his home run prowess for Columbia in the Sally league.

From that point on, I watched everything he did with interest. I followed him to the Arizona Fall League,  and while everyone was watching James Loney and Andy LaRoche, it was the 21-year-old Matt Kemp who put on a home run display from batting practice till the end of the season, culminating in a home run in the season finale.

When Matt Kemp made an unexpected appearance at the Ravine in 2006, and hit home runs every which way before being schooled, I was at Dodger Thoughts when Bob Timmermann first hung the moniker of Bison on him. If my memory serves me correct someone said he looked like a Buffalo, but Bob doing what he always did, corrected the poster,  and declared that the Bison is the correct term.  During the Matt Kemp 2006 June run from June 1st – June 14th, Matt hit seven home runs in eight starts.

It took a while for Matt Kemp to meet his potential. In between his Puig like debut to his MVP 2011 season, he was constantly harangued for base running miscues, mental mistakes, and simply not being Jay Bruce.  The skills were there, but no one expected 2011. Very few hitters have ever had a  non PED season like 2011. Ryan Braun sure hasn’t.

For some fans all they saw was the remains of what was once the Dodgers franchise player. A player who at the peak of his career, was the best hitter in the game, and who signed a long-term team friendly contract extension.  He had been removed from CF, planted in LF, and seemed moribund. He started to hit, but it just a group of singles, it was not Matt Kemp.

Rumors led by his agent Dave Stewart seemed to suggest Matt would be happy elsewhere. Normally these rumors would be cast aside but Dave Stewart couldn’t keep his mouth shut, so what seemed like a pipe dream started to take on reality. As the trade deadline got closer the more you heard his name being mentioned.

BUT

Yasiel Puig is the man who keeps on giving. In this case, Puig got hurt. Matt Kemp moved to RF, and from the moment the Bison hit his familiar turf, he seemed like a different ballplayer. As each game in RF field went by he looked more and more like Matt Kemp. Still no power, and still no signal from Donny boy what he was going to do when Puig returned. Would the light bulb that had gone off in many fans heads actually go off for Donny? I’m not going to go into detail about how pathetic it was that it took an injury to Puig for management to figure out what the solution to their outfield problems were, I’ll save that for another day.

Luckily, they made the right decision,  and the new configuration of Matt Kemp in RF, Puig in CF, whoever in LF, became the defacto lineup starting with the Giants. The Dodgers won, and won, and won.

Still the rumors abounded when I hit the Ravine Tuesday night. I had to go, it might be the last time I ever got to see Matt Kemp.  As I took my seat I was detached and wondered if I could make it for nine innings. With barely any interest I watched the pre – game ceremonies unfold. Eventually the team took the field, and the little girl ran out to Matt Kemp. For some reason the cameraman who had nine different players to choose from decided to stay on Matt Kemp. Kemp was smiling, joked with the girl,  signed his autograph for her, and did I mention his smile. I had forgotten just how great a smile Matt Kemp had.

Tears poked their way out.  This was my guy. My era. I realized quite suddenly how I didn’t want this to end yet. This team needed Matt Kemp. I needed Matt Kemp.

The game had yet to start, and what a game we had coming our way.

Part Two – Matt Kemp gets his groove on

 

From → Matt Kemp

9 Comments
  1. Ivdown permalink

    This is great, Phil. I was shocked when I heard that you had only been to one game this year and it was just last week. I’m glad to see you write this, I loved it.

    • Thanks, I was amazed myself, it seemed I had started to go to several games but just never made it. And thanks for commenting, I was wondering if I could go the whole year without a comment:)

      • Ivdown permalink

        If I had known you were writing then I definitely would have stopped by sooner 🙂

  2. “This team needed Matt Kemp. I needed Matt Kemp.” This hit me pretty hard, and I’m not entirely sure why, other than it’s absolutely true. Nothing this season, not Kersh being unbelievable, Greinke’s very solid pitching, Justin Turner’s hair, or Dee’s resurgence has been as important to me as every time Matt Kemp looks like he’s gonna be back. I hope it’s for real, not only because I believe, but because I need to believe. Thanks again.

  3. The Foils permalink

    Love this, even as someone with only marginal emotional investment in Matt Kemp. The Angels preview was great too, as ever. I miss those.

    • Thanks Foils. Nice of you to pop by. I enjoyed writing the Angel preview, maybe it will inspire me to do a few more as the season runs down.

  4. Ghost permalink

    Thanks for a great read Phil. Kemp has always been a favorite of mine, particularly because of how great he was with the fans when I’d hang around at Camelback Ranch. I want him to be outstanding on the field more than any other Dodger.

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