It's getting close to being a month since Matt Kemp was traded to the Padres. The videos of him donning the San Diego uniform and expressing his general positive anticipation for the 2015 season hasn't really totally worn out how weird-as-hell it is that Matt Kemp is a Padre now. Weirder than when Gwynn Jr. was in Dodger blue.
Dodger fans loved the hell out of Kemp. Deemed gorgeous by an army of male-beauty obsessed fans after his FLAUNT magazine photoshoot, and labeled a stud by baseball lovers after his explosive 2011 season and slight bounce-back last year, Kemp has drawn a crowd not too long after his arrival from Oklahoma.
Other than the big numbers he posted a few seasons ago, the biggest fan impression I found of Matt Kemp was on how involved he was with fans; especially on a charitable level. He takes everything to heart, and went as far as to give the shirt off his back for them (and hat, and autographed ball, and cleats.) He was intense when winning, pissy when losing, he'd dance around the clubhouse and hoped to stay in Los Angeles as long as they wanted him.
Matt Kemp, Matt Kemp Matt Kemp.
Matt Kemp, Matt Kemp Matt Kemp.
Though with a fanbase spanning as large as the Dodgers that love isn't really always consistent. Other than receiving his most recent booing at a Clippers game, Dodger fans would turn on the guy pretty damn quick if he started struggling. The love flip-flopped dependent entirely on his performance. To be fair, when you're supposed to be an MVP and are earning $20mil/yr while swinging at garbage all day it can obviously be frustrating for a fan; and he was boo'd hard.
Also one of the bigger impression outsiders have of Kemp is his "firey" personality. When a player gets intense it's typically a love-it if he's on your side, hate-it if he's on theirs. For as long as Kemp has been in the league its a been a hate-it for everybody not located in the LA county. San Diego can remember the little high school tiff in the Petco Park halls after class let out. We hated it then, but if somebody charged (and injured) one of our starting rotation, despite the guilt and context, I'd want a little pushback too.
Like it or not, that flame is for us now. Kemp's entire career has been Dodger blue. Eight years of it is pretty hard to let go. The dude has character and identity, and will bring it to a clubhouse with a scarce amount of either of those things. He'll bicker at teammates who don't hustle and has expressed his intent of filling a leadership role for the Padres organization.
He has had eight years to build up these reputations, and he has expressed he plans on playing until he's 40. and here are some every-day things we can learn about our new Friar:
The baseball stuff
- His minor league path was through the Gulf Coast Dodgers in 2003, Columbus Catfish in 2004, the Vero Beach Dodgers in 2005, and finally the Jacksonville Suns in 2006.
- He was the fifth player to hit four home runs in his first 10 days in the MLB, and the first Dodger to do so.
- Managed to break the Dodgers' season-strikeout record with 170 strikeouts in 2010. The previous record was 153 in 2008, also set by Kemp.
- In that same 2010 season, he became the first player in history to hit a home run in every single one of the Dodger's final 5 games.
- First player for the Dodgers to hit a minimum of 25 homeruns, 100 RBIs, to get 20 steals, while also hitting for .295 in a season.
- Hit for 100 runs and 100 RBIs in 2011, the first Dodger to do so since Jeff Kent in 2005, and the only Dodger other than Dolph Camilli to lead the National League in homeruns and RBIs.
- Also one of the two Dodgers to collect 30 homeruns and 30 steals in a season, and the only one to have collected 30 homeruns and 40 steals.
Highlights2009 Gold Glove, Silver Slugger
2011 Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, NL HR leader, NL RBI leader, NL runs scored leader, Baseball-America Player of the Year, NL Hank Aaron award, LA Roy Campanella award, 30-30 club
Home Runs in Petco Park
In his 2012 season for the Dodgers, Kemp hit 23 home runs with an average true distance of about 403 feet. His longest of the season was 454 feet at Dodger Stadium. In Petco Park, he notched three HR's.
His most recent to this day was on September 26th against Anthony Bass. It went 412 ft. to dead center field.
His second home run of the season in Petco was off Clayton Richard and landed at 402 ft. to dead center.
His first of that year was three days earlier off of Brad Brach and landed in what is now the Jack Daniels Deck at 391 ft.
In Kemp's crazy-good 2011 season he hit 39 home runs with an average distance of about 412 feet. The furthest (not in Colorado) was 455 feet in St Louis, and he had only collected one home run while in San Diego.
That year he blasted one 428 ft. into right field off Wade LeBlanc on September 23rd.
Back in May of 2010 he knocked one off of Luke Gregerson. Another into deep center. Gwynn Jr almost got a glove on it, and it pissed him off pretty bad that he missed it. But there's a trend there. 406 feet to center field in Petco Park is going to go out pretty much any direction you hit it.
The standard practice of hitting a home run out of Petco is by hitting the ball really, really hard. Matt Kemp can still hit the ball really hard. His ISO against lefties last year was almost .200 while against righties it was sitting at about .230. To put that slightly into perspective, we didn't have a starter in the lineup hitting over .200.
Not really baseball stuff
- He actively played basketball as a junior in high school where his team won the Oklahoma state championship for Midwest City High School.
- One of his teammates was Shelden Williams, a former player on several NBA teams. Kemp is also good friends with Rockets forward Trevor Ariza.
- Nickname on the Dodgers was "The Bison", coined by Braves announcer Don Sutton because he "looked like a big buffalo running around the bases."
- Coincidentally the official state animal of Oklahoma is also the bison.
- He dated Rihanna, for about a year, from 2009 to 2010. Rihanna is best known for her role in the 2012 action blockbuster "Battleship." I think she sings too.
- Shares his September 23rd birthday with Bruce Springsteen, Ray Charles, Karl Pilkington, and Kublai Khan. I believe he shares personality traits with all four of these people.
Something Padres fans will probably become familiar with if they start to followed Kemp outside the field is his charitable work he founded the organization "Kemp's Kids," which focused on giving inner-city youth the opportunity to experience Dodger Stadium and treating them to batting cages, prizes, events, etc. I wouldn't doubt Kemp will be bringing that to San Diego.
Kemp also atively collaborates and contributes to charities that raise money for autism research. He helps lead the annual charity event Ante up for Autism, which as of November hit its 8th year. More information can be found at www.anteupforautism.org.
Where to stalk