- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"Every single one of them!"
"Thanks, man," Kemp says "Appreciate that."
Kemp was voted the National League's starting centerfielder in the All-Star Game, but there remains a sense that he has still more in him. "His upside is unlimited, and his downside is probably his 2010 season," says Ausmus. "If Matt can squeeze every ounce of ability out of his body for the next 15 years, we'll be looking at a Hall of Famer."
Kemp, in other words, must continue to find his inner Eckstein. Helping him do that, he says, will be the example of his family: his parents, Judy and Carl, who never married but strove together to support him, Judy as a nurse, Carl climbing utility poles for Oklahoma Gas & Electric. The memory of his half brother, Tyler—"The strongest little dude I ever met," Kemp says—who, when Kemp was 13, was born 15 weeks early, at one pound and one ounce, but who fought to live for more than a year. And, most of all, his 71-year-old grandmother, Doris Mukes, a dressmaker in Oklahoma. She calls with a reprimand whenever she sees him curse on the TV he bought her, and begs him to stop acquiring tattoos. "I tell him, 'You've got this beautiful body, and you mar it all up,'" Doris says. "I keep hearing about last year, when he wasn't focused. I think all this was happening to him all of a sudden, and he got too involved in outside things. I tell him, 'You've accomplished so much, but you're not there yet.'"
In 2011, Kemp has gotten somewhere. "Every day, I hit a home run, I make a diving play, I see fans cheering, I see a fan wearing my jersey, I'm like, Dang, this is crazy, this is dope," he says. "It unbelievable, but it's real life. That hits the spot, right there."
SI on Twitter
Follow @SI_MLB for breaking news, coverage and commentary from SI writers.