Matt Kemp is finally home again in LA

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There is no easy approach to tell a actor he’s been traded. But generally whatever awkwardness or tension an executive feels from those calls is equivalent by a fad of a calls welcoming a players fasten a club. Last Dec Andrew Friedman took pleasure from neither: He had to call a team’s excessive son, Matt Kemp, to tell him he’d been reacquired by a Dodgers — a group he came adult with and with that he scarcely won an MVP — yet expected wasn’t staying long.

Friedman, a Dodgers’ boss of ball operations, cut right to a chase. “I usually wish to be honest with you,” he told Kemp. “I’m not certain how this will play out.”

This was a second time a dual group had spoken. The initial came in 2014, when Friedman was dual months into his pursuit in LA. The team’s billionaire owners had lured him divided from small-market Tampa Bay and tasked him with remaking a Dodgers into a championship contender instead of an costly collection of disgruntled, unsatisfactory stars. Friedman’s initial vast trade as a Dodgers’ shot tourist sent Kemp, once a unquestioned face of a franchise, to a moribund Padres.

So dual phone calls, dual trades, both of that concerned revelation Kemp he wasn’t a partial of a team’s benefaction or destiny plans. Not accurately a approach to start a good relationship. “S—, we got all happy during first,” Kemp says of Friedman’s call to him final year. “I could go behind to LA where it all started. … And afterwards it was like, ‘Damn, now I’ve gotta lay here and consternation a whole offseason what’s going to happen.'”

It was tough to take.

The years divided from Los Angeles — grieving on last-place teams in San Diego and Atlanta, examination his once-indomitable physique misuse him — had taken a fee on Kemp’s spirit. He’d come to skip being a Dodger and all that went with it: a stage, a suggestive games in Aug and Sep chasing a pennant, a sound of 50,000 fans entertaining on gentle nights during Chavez Ravine.

“You travel out and it’s usually a opposite smell in LA,” he says. “Like a atmosphere is … we usually feel good. The sun’s always shining, it hardly rains. It’s usually this city, man. The stadium, a atmosphere, a lights. There’s zero like it.”

For one moment, happening had smiled on him, delivering him behind to LA. But in a next, Friedman was revelation him not to get too gentle with a idea. The Dodgers had dealt for him usually given his income matched adult good with a package of costly veterans a group sent to a Braves — Adrian Gonzalez and Scott Kazmir among them — and a understanding would assistance a group get underneath a $197 million oppulance taxation threshold. Just like a final time Kemp had been shipped out of LA, a Dodgers had small use for an outfielder whose invulnerability had depressed off a precipice as injuries, age and weight benefit took their toll.

Kemp was during a crossroads. He was usually 33, yet he’d apparently reached a indicate in his career when teams trade him for zero — or cut him and compensate him out, rather than find a mark for his still-productive bat.

There was small he could contend to change a circumstances. There was, however, something he could do, maybe a usually thing left to do before his career fizzled out. He could uncover a Dodgers that he’d changed.


TORII HUNTER WAS with Kemp when he got that call from Friedman. They’d been friends for years in an comparison brother/younger hermit kind of way. Over a march of his 19-year career, Hunter had finished a indicate of reaching out to dozens of younger players, charity recommendation and mentorship, as veterans such as Twins fable Kirby Puckett had finished for him when he initial finished it to a vast leagues.

But Kemp wasn’t a child perplexing to find his approach around a vast leagues anymore. He was a maestro opposed his possess ball mortality. “It’s an ego thing,” Kemp says. “Getting comparison gets a small humbling.”

Hunter, dual years into retirement, knew a small something about that partial too. “I was like 29 when we had to start unequivocally removing into my body,” Hunter says. “I usually took control, and it paid off, given we played until we was 40. And we could’ve played dual some-more years after that; it’s usually my mind left.”

Hunter had been enlivening Kemp to pierce to Texas and sight with him full time for years. He’d get him eating right and training in a approach he’d never finished before. Kemp would come for a few weeks any offseason, yet after a approach his physique felt after final deteriorate — derailed by nonetheless another hamstring injury, that incited him into one of a misfortune defensive outfielders in a diversion — he knew he indispensable to make a deeper commitment.

Soda and processed food were out. His dishes would be prepared by Hunter’s longtime private chef, Kevin Ashade. He altered his workouts to concentration some-more on flexibility, continuation and weight detriment rather than strength training. His nightlife, once a mindfulness of tabloids and paparazzi when he was dating Rihanna, had incited into diversion nights and grill with Hunter and his wife.

“He renovated himself and built himself behind up,” Hunter says. “He’s a same body, a same building, yet he renovated. The inside is different.”

Kemp had already mislaid 20 pounds by a time Friedman called in mid-December, and he dictated to remove during slightest 20 some-more before open training. (Hunter proudly says Kemp eventually mislaid 52 pounds. Kemp was some-more modest, observant simply that he mislaid “enough.”) He suspicion about revelation Friedman all of that on that phone call. About how most he’d come to conclude being a Dodger and how most he wanted to be back. About how tough it was to watch his former teammates go to a World Series final year after nonetheless another squandered year on a non-contender. These 3 seasons divided had tested his spirit, yet he’d finished a choice in a offseason to find his adore for a diversion again and was doing all he could to reconstitute himself from a inside out.

But this was literally a second time he’d ever oral to a guy, and both had been trade calls like this. He had no suspicion either he would even listen.

And some-more than that, Kemp knew that speak was inexpensive when it came to changing his reputation. The usually thing he could do was swallow his honour and uncover a Dodgers how most he’d changed.

“What can we do?” Hunter asked him. “Just trust a routine that you’re going through.

“You’re a new person, so usually go do your thing. Help a other guys. Show them that we have that knowledge to give back. we consider any classification needs a actor that has good character, wisdom, that’s been by stuff.

“Show them what we can do whenever we get a chance.”


KENLEY JANSEN HAD an suspicion for Kemp to do usually that. The Dodgers’ All-Star closer, teammates with Kemp from 2010 to 2014, had spent a offseason campaigning for Kemp, and he was prepared to safeguard that his former teammate warranted a mark on a LA roster.

“I told my wife,” Jansen says, “I don’t caring if a front bureau is gonna be pissed off during me or whatever. All we caring about is winning, and this is a man that we need. He’s a right-handed bat we’ve been acid for, and we already had him.

“A lot of people left and went and played on opposite teams — yet he’s a one person, when he left, that unequivocally hurt.”

Jansen had a offer for Kemp. The Dodgers were carrying offseason workouts in Los Angeles in January. As prolonged as Kemp hadn’t been traded by then, he should usually uncover adult and uncover everybody what Jansen had been revelation them for months — Kemp could assistance a Dodgers.

For Kemp, that meant swallowing his honour and display up, uninvited, to those offseason workouts.

Jansen knew that was no easy task. Kemp’s initial army in LA finished in vast partial given he bristled publicly and secretly about relocating from core field, where he’d won Gold Gloves in 2009 and 2011, to a dilemma outfield position after injuries had severely discontinued his operation and athleticism.

“If we unequivocally go back, if he would have finished that, he still substantially would’ve been a Dodger, we believe,” Jansen says. “But he has his pride. And we consider his ego competence have been a small bit too most in his way, probably.”

Then there was a open dispute between Kemp and ardent immature outfielder Yasiel Puig. “He attempted to fortify Puig,” Jansen says. “He was perplexing to be a veteran.”

Puig didn’t take it well, and things erupted after a playoff diversion opposite a Cardinals in 2014, when Kemp called out Puig in front of a group during a postgame residence by then-manager Don Mattingly. Kemp and Jansen contend they trust that occurrence was partial of given he was traded to San Diego that December. Friedman denies it. He wasn’t there for it, yet he’d listened from a prior staff about what happened. “From a standpoint, a lot of time had passed,” Friedman says. “And we was confident [Kemp and Puig] would be means to pierce past that. That wasn’t most of a risk cause for us.

“There’s a lot of tension whenever we remove a playoff series, and it sounds like a lot was tied to that.”

According to Friedman, Kemp was changed in 2014 essentially given a Dodgers had a bolt of dilemma outfielders and Kemp had some-more trade value than Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier. By then, Kemp had supposed that he couldn’t play core margin like he used to. He had some-more 2014 games in right than core for a Dodgers, and he’d be personification there any day with a Padres as well.

“You’ve got to come to reality,” Kemp says. “In your brain, you’re thinking, ‘I can still do certain things.’ And afterwards when we try to do it, your physique goes, ‘I can’t unequivocally do that a approach we used to.’

“You try to take bases and think, ‘I’ve got such a good jump!’ and afterwards it’s like, ‘Why am we using in place right now?’ It’s your mind personification tricks on you. So we usually got to be good during what we can do and keep operative on a things that you’re not as good during anymore.”

And after training all offseason with Hunter, operative on his mind, physique and spirit, Kemp felt prepared to infer himself again.

“Having good people around we like that keeps we focused and creates we realize, ‘Let’s close this s— behind in and try to get where we can make something happen,'” Kemp says.


FRIEDMAN IMMEDIATELY NOTICED a change in Kemp, who looked extremely leaner than he did during a finish of his time in Atlanta.

In open training, Kemp strike .263 with 5 home runs and tender a Dodgers with his eagerness to put time in with outfield manager George Lombard, operative on his defense. What unequivocally sole Friedman, though, was his attitude.

“Early on, he scored a vast run late in a game,” Friedman remembers. “And we saw approach some-more tension out of him than I’ve ever seen. That unequivocally stood out to me, how most he wanted to be here and how most he wanted to win here.”

In a initial half of a season, a Dodgers wouldn’t have won most during all though Kemp. He strike .310 with 15 homers and 60 RBIs to acquire his initial All-Star preference given 2012. (He was a team’s usually descent selection.) His resurgence, along with a startling star spin of infielder Max Muncy, kept a Dodgers afloat after star shortstop Corey Seager was mislaid to a season-ending damage and third baseman Justin Turner struggled in his lapse from a damaged wrist. Kemp cooled off extremely after a All-Star mangle — he strike usually .214 in Aug — yet didn’t tumble off a precipice like he might’ve finished in his younger days, when he was famous as most for sulking his approach by slumps as he was for his strut in good times. And on Sept. 1 and 2, he came adult with back-to-back walk-off hits to kick a Diamondbacks as a Dodgers erased what had been a 4½-game necessity in a NL West over a camber of 10 days.

“It’s baseball. It’s a drum coaster,” Kemp says. “You have one good week and a subsequent week we suck, and afterwards we come behind and you’re good again. Then we siphon again for 3 weeks and afterwards you’re good again for dual months and afterwards we siphon again. There’s not a lot of people that can usually consistently be really, unequivocally good during baseball.”

If it sounds like something a correct aged maestro would say, you’re not distant off. Cody Bellinger has praised Kemp for his mentorship over a march of a season. He and Puig have reconciled, Jansen going so distant as to call them “brothers for life” this spring. In July, Kemp was named a leader of a Dodgers’ Heart and Hustle Award, given by former players to a actor on any bar who “demonstrates a passion for a diversion of baseball.”

Kemp himself is amused by his growth from mentee to mentor. It’s not odd for him to move a bag full of immature drinks from Kreation Juicery with him to a track and splash one before and after a game.

“I don’t splash it for a taste,” he says, while holding adult a potion bottle labeled “50 Shades of Green” that costs $12.20 a cocktail and has things like spirulina and dandelions in it. “I splash it for a feel.”

Two lockers over, a Dodgers’ newest star, Manny Machado, is wailing how most food costs during high-end restaurants in Los Angeles. “Is there bullion in it?!”

“That’s LA, bro,” Kemp yells back. “You’ve got to get used to it.”

“I could usually eat during McDonald’s any day,” Machado says.

Kemp laughs. “He loves McDonald’s.”

Machado opens adult a new box of cleats and asks Kemp if he wants a pair.

“Now he’s handing out Jordans,” Kemp says, smiling. He used to be a Dodger with all a publicity deals and repository covers. Back in 2014, he became a initial masculine luminary selected as a face of a wardrobe tradesman Gap. Outside a Dodgers hall is a Sports Illustrated cover he did with then-new owners Magic Johnson in 2012. Kemp was a face of a authorization in those days — a $160 million homegrown luminary a Dodgers were dynamic to build around as they dug out from a catastrophic power of former owners Frank McCourt. Kemp passes by that vestige any day on his approach to work, a sign of what he’s been by yet also how distant he’s come.

He’s not a face of a Dodgers anymore. But he’s a Dodger again, and that’s enough.

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