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"We'd come home after school, turn on the TV and watch the Braves play baseball games.
It was the best thing in the world."The dream became tangible in 2003, when the Dodgers drafted Kemp in the sixth round out of high school.
"I've played with a lot of guys that like to have fun and joke around, but he's just one guy that—I honestly never see him, like, mad."The chemistry worked in the lineup, too.
ATLANTA — On a late afternoon in June, Matt Kemp settles into the right-handed batter's box at Sun Trust Park to take his cuts. He's reminding baseball fans of the player who nearly won the National League triple crown in '11, when he led the league with 39 home runs and 126 RBI, finished third with a .324 average and also stole 40 bases. Then a second trade, this time to the Braves, and chatter about his San Diego mansion not selling at auction. Conversations surrounding him provide a pleasant hum.
The first few pitches tossed his way during batting practice end up sprinkled in the outfield grass. Back then, it seemed like he would be a Dodger and a superstar for life. There was the tabloid fodder—like dating Rihanna in 2010. He admitted in a post on the Players' Tribune that he had "let a big contract, the Hollywood lifestyle, injuries and bad relationships" get to him, which earned him a "reputation for being selfish, lazy and a bad teammate."He was trending dangerously toward another label: bust. He looks laid-back, wearing a black T-shirt that reads "EQUALITY" on the front and "42" on the back, in homage to Jackie Robinson. A fan in May uttered the N-word and threw a bag of peanuts at Orioles outfielder Adam Jones.
Like Le Bron said, it doesn't matter how much people admire you, how much money you have, how famous you are. Maybe it didn't exist because all he was doing was playing ball and wasn't yet famous. He's not sure."But when you get older you start to realize, like, 'Dang. "It's kind of crazy."Growing up in Midwest City, Oklahoma, Kemp and his cousins were "pretty much" the only African-Americans on his teams, he says.
A two-sport athlete, his basketball teammates teased him for playing baseball—"," he recalls them saying—as football and hoops were more popular where he lived."[My friends] never came to games," Kemp says. They didn't know that the scouts were coming to see me play."He's shown a photo of himself from his childhood.
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"Not a lot of people can say they're living their dream."Kemp grew up in a single-parent household, with his mom, Judy Henderson, a nurse.