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Kemp accepts awards at Negro Leagues Museum

KANSAS CITY -- Accompanied by agent Dave Stewart, a pitcher with few equals in his time, Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp paid his respects at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum on Tuesday afternoon.

After getting the full tour treatment from museum president Bob Kendrick, who spun fascinating yarns about Satchel Paige and the other greats who preceded him generations ago, Kemp was handed a couple of parting gifts.

In an impromptu presentation preceding a dissertation on hitting by Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, Kendrick handed Kemp the museum's 2011 Oscar Charleston Legacy Award as the Major League player of the year, and the Josh Gibson Award as the premier home run hitter in the National League.

Playing in the NL, Kemp has rarely visited Kansas City, and he was unable to attend the museum's annual Legacy Awards ceremonies following last season.

"This is unbelievable," Kemp said. "I really appreciate it. It's amazing to be here.

"Stew, my agent, and my dad told me I needed to check this [museum] out. It's amazing to know what they had to go through, to know [about] some of the great Negro League players who probably could have done amazing things in the Major Leagues.

"I want to thank God for having this opportunity -- and thank you guys for supporting baseball."

Kemp, voted by fans into the National League's starting lineup for Tuesday night's All-Star Game, decided not to play after consulting with the Dodgers. He had no luck as the NL captain in Monday night's State Farm Home Run Derby at Kauffman Stadium, showing some rust and going deep only once.

Kemp has not returned to the Dodgers' lineup since the recurrence of a hamstring strain sent him to the disabled list for a second time on June 1. He is expected to resume his place in center field and in his No. 3 spot in the Dodgers' lineup after the All-Star break.

Kemp is hitting .355 with 12 homers, 28 RBIs and a .719 slugging percentage through only 36 games. In 2011, he led the NL in homers (39), RBIs (126), total bases (353) and runs (115), batting .324. He finished second in the NL Most Valuable Player voting to the Brewers' Ryan Braun.

"Matt Kemp walked in today with my old friend, Dave 'Smoke' Stewart," Kendrick said. "We've seen Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Dave Winfield at the museum the past few days.

"It's been an incredible five days at the museum."

Los Angeles Dodgers, Matt Kemp