High school yearsEdit
Kemp attended Midwest City High School in Midwest City, Oklahoma and was a standout in basketball and baseball. He was teammates with Shelden Williams of the Denver Nuggets on the varsity basketball team that won the state title their junior year. In 2002, while playing in a High School All-Star Basketball tournament, Matt Kemp, along with four teammates, including Williams, were accused of raping a 19 year-old woman on January 20, 2002 at the Columbus, Ohio Hyatt hotel. The players were suspended from the team during the investigation. The woman did not press charges, and the district attorney opted to not pursue the matter due to a lack of evidence.
He started his professional career for the Gulf Coast Dodgers in 2003 and followed that up with stints with the Columbus Catfish in 2004 and the Vero Beach Dodgers in 2004-05. He was selected to the Florida State League All-Star team in 2005, and set Vero Beach franchise records for home runs (27) and slugging percentage (.569).
He began 2006 with the AA Jacksonville Suns, where he hit .327 with 7 homers, 34 RBIs and 11 steals, prompting a promotion to the major league squad. His promotion was spurred by an effort to provide regular rest for center fielder Kenny Lofton and oft injured right field All-Star J.D. Drew.
Kemp made his major league debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 5, Template:By, against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He hit his first Major League homer on June 1 in his second Dodger Stadium at-bat off the Philadelphia Phillies' Gavin Floyd. He homered in three straight games from June 1–3 against the Phillies and homered twice on June 11 off Colorado Rockies starter Aaron Cook. He became the 1st Dodger and 5th major leaguer to hit four homers in his first 10 days with the team.
He was re-assigned to the AAA Las Vegas 51s in mid-July, but was recalled to the Dodgers when rosters expanded on September 1.
Kemp started the 2007 season on the major league roster but lost his place when he suffered an injury while running into the outfield fence at Dodger Stadium. Upon his return from the injury, he was optioned back to Las Vegas and did not return to the Dodgers until mid-June. Once Kemp was recalled, he enjoyed an outstanding sophomore campaign. Kemp batted .342, hit 10 home runs, and drove in 42 runs while splitting time with Andre Ethier.
Going into the 2008 season, Kemp was expected to battle for one of the corner outfield positions, though his spot in right field was essentially guaranteed. He was named NL Player of the Week for the week of April 28-May 4, when he drove in 11 runs and had 6 stolen bases.
After a knee injury to Andruw Jones, Kemp became the Dodgers' regular center fielder. During the course of the season, Kemp managed to cut down his high strikeout rate and develop his speed. Kemp finished the year second on the Dodgers in stolen bases with 35.
Kemp had his first career walk-off hit on June 16 against the Oakland A's. On September 24, he became the first player in Dodger history to hit at least .295, with 25 home runs, 100 RBIs, and 30 steals in one season. Kemp hit his first career postseason home run on October 7 in his first at bat of the NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals. After the season, he was selected as a recipient of both the Gold Glove Award and the Silver Slugger Award.
Kemp began the 2010 season in excellent fashion, hitting 7 home runs in the month of April, including 4 in 4 days from April 13–16. However, he slumped badly in the second half of the season and finished with a .249 batting average. He did hit 28 home runs and 89 RBI while playing in all 162 games for the first time in his career. He also hit home runs in five straight games to end the season, the first Dodger to do so since Shawn Green in 2001. Kemp also broke his own single-season Dodger record for strikeouts with 170.
Kemp's nickname is "The Bison." During the second major league game of Kemp's career, on May 29, Template:By, he stole second base in the fourth inning, after which Atlanta Braves television announcer Don Sutton said he looked "like a big buffalo running around the bases." The observation was appropriate due to Kemp's imposing size - the Dodgers' roster lists him at 6' 3" tall and 225 pounds - and surprisingly fast footspeed. The word "buffalo" was modified to "bison," by the commenter D4P on Jon Weisman's popular Dodgers blog, Dodger Thoughts, as it is a more proper term for the North American mammal to which the moniker refers. It wasn't until the next day when the starting lineup did not include Kemp that baseball writer Eric Enders, also commenting in Dodger Thoughts added the capitalized article in front of the animal, completing the nickname, writing "So much for looking forward to watching The Bison tonight."
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