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Kemp takes to turnpike to visit Fan Cave

Kemp takes to turnpike to visit Fan Cave
NEW YORK -- On Tuesday morning, the Dodgers' No. 1 "cheerleader" woke up at the team hotel in Philadelphia, got into a car and rode about 100 miles up the Jersey Turnpike to have some fun and show a little National League pride.

Matt Kemp walked into the MLB Fan Cave in Manhattan, got a good look around, and joined up there with fellow All-Stars Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson of the Yankees and Matt Joyce of the Rays. They were invitees to a new All-Star Leadoff event hosted by Major League Baseball and FOX, to talk about the first balloting results for the 83rd All-Star Game on July 10 in Kansas City.

"It was easy. I got up, just fell asleep in the car and I woke up and I was here," Kemp said of his journey. "There was nothing to it. It's not that long of a drive. They asked me to be here, and I've never been to the Fan Cave, so it was my first time here and I'm pretty excited about that."

Kemp is on the 15-day disabled list for a second time this season because of a strained left hamstring. He was sent to the DL on May 14 and activated on May 29, and then was two games into his return from that stint when he was sidelined again.

Dodgers trainer Sue Falsone said last week that Kemp would need at least four weeks to recover, and naturally the subject of return time became a pressing matter as Kemp spoke about leading all National League vote-getters.

Ed Goren, vice chairman of FOX Sports Media Group, said during the event that the intensity of the Midsummer Classic had "elevated" in recent years, and then added: "When all is said and done, it's the players who make it happen." He then patted Kemp on the shoulder and said, "You get healthy."

Officially, Kemp's position on All-Star Week in Kansas City is simple: He is in the State Farm Home Run Derby as the NL captain and he is playing in the All-Star Game, if he makes the roster. He gripped tightly to the dark-blue (AL is sky-blue) T-shirt that says "I Play For N.L." -- the same shirt he tweeted in an Instagram photo, one that had an immediate 5,000 likes.

Unofficially, he is taking it day-by-day and just hoping nothing keeps him from that big week ... and putting what's best for the Dodgers at the top of his list.

"I still have to do what's best for my team, and if that's not playing in it, then I'm not going to," he said. "But if they let me and I'm healthy, then I am definitely playing in it. As of right now, I'm playing in the All-Star Game and participating in the Home Run Derby and we'll go from there.

"We'll see. Right now I'm just rehabbing and trying to get it better. There's really no timetable. I'm just trying to get back on the field as soon as possible."

He was going to rejoin his NL West-leading club back in Philly, and the road trip goes on to Seattle for the next Interleague Play series. That starts 15 consecutive games against American League clubs, but Kemp's next shot at AL pitching is going to be the All-Star Game -- if he can make it back then.

"I'm traveling with the team, being the biggest cheerleader in the world," he said. "It's not fun being a cheerleader. I'd rather be playing. But it is what it is."

Kemp said last year's All-Star Week in Phoenix was a memory to last forever. It was his first selection.

"For me, it was just making it and hanging out with a lot of the guys, being around all those guys," he said. "My family got to experience their first All-Star Game. The Home Run Derby, everything was amazing. I just had a great all-around time, and I live in Arizona so it was perfect.

"It feels great to see how people have voted this year. I show a lot of appreciation; I thank my fans out there for voting for me. Hopefully I'll be back before then and be playing in the All-Star Game, because this is something I want to do."

On Tuesday, Kemp and Cano were named captains of their respective leagues for the Home Run Derby. Kemp has an idea who he wants on his four-man team, and had some fun thinking about it.

"I'm definitely going to pick (Andre) Ethier. Hopefully he is going to want to participate," Kemp said. "Maybe Mike Stanton, because he's been hitting some crazy home runs.

"I'll probably even put another one of my teammates in there, Dee Gordon. I might put him in the Home Run Derby. I'm just playing around."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of Read and join other baseball fans on his community blog.