Fame finds Dodgers’ Matt Kemp

By Dylan Hernandez Published: February 28, 2010
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/> Kemp won his first Gold Glove last season, his first as the Dodgers’ everyday center fielder.

"I’m going to try to get mine,” Kemp said. "I’m not going to try — I am. He has to stop playing, though, so I can catch him.”

He said he has written down his season goals in a journal he has kept for the last four years.

But no details?

"I can’t tell you the goals,” he said. "They won’t come true.”

Expectations, though, are high thanks to last season, when he hit .297, had 26 home runs, 34 stolen bases and 101 runs batted in — prompting talk that he could one day be a 40-40 man, 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases.

Manager Joe Torre said Kemp hasn’t done anything to indicate his focus is waning either. And while Torre also said he’s talked to Kemp about off-the-field issues, the conversations weren’t serious.

"Matt Kemp, last year, probably came further than anybody,” Torre said. "He was enormously improved last year. Just knowing his personality, I don’t think he’s going to be satisfied with that.”

General Manager Ned Colletti recalled the time Kemp went to play ball in the Dominican Republic in the winter of 2006-07.

"He went down there and he struggled,” Colletti said. "But you know what he did? He stayed. He fought through it. It’s a tough place to play. He didn’t speak the language. Someone with less intestinal fortitude would have come home early.

"I think that experience helped him.”

Kemp became a millionaire this winter, rewarded with a two-year, $10.95 million contract.

Yet dealing with present-day matters was only part of Kemp’s changed reality; he had to deal with his past too.

Among the incidents that surfaced and were widely reported in gossip publications was that Kemp had a restraining order filed against him by an ex-girlfriend in 2008.

"As you can see with the restraining order, it was dropped,” Kemp said. "I’ve never, ever did anything to harm anybody in my life, especially a woman. It hurts my feelings.”

Kemp said he has learned that he has to be careful with what he does or where he goes.

"I’ve been here for four years,” he said. "I know what L.A.’s like. It’s not like a normal city. It’s a big city. It’s Hollywood — entertainment capital of the world. It’s not just a normal baseball city.”

But in the first week of camp, a couple of Dodgers officials didn’t seem pleased to learn there was a risque video on TMZ.com that showed Rihanna at a birthday party that Kemp reportedly threw for her in Arizona.

Kemp said he doesn’t anticipate the scrutiny to become significantly worse.

"I haven’t seen too many people popping out of bushes,” he said.

Whatever happens, he wanted to make one point clear.

"I’m not a celebrity,” he said. "I’m a baseball player, man.”

McClatchy-Tribune News Service


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