Emotional Kemp mourns Boseman on JR Day

August 29th, 2020

DENVER -- The Rockies’  again made the most powerful statement he could during this crazy time.

A forceful figure in calling attention to police brutality against the Black population this week, Kemp stepped up on Jackie Robinson Day and blasted his longest home run since Statcast began tracking them in 2015 -- a 468-foot drive for three of the Rockies’ four first-inning runs against the Padres.

But for the Rockies and Kemp, himself, the joy didn’t last long.

Not only did the Rockies do nothing else offensively, they got their first non-quality start of the season from , who allowed a career-high 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings in a 10-4 loss, which ended a three-game win streak and marked their seventh defeat in their past nine games at Coors Field.

Even more distressing, award-winning actor Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in the critically acclaimed 2013 movie, “42” passed away after a battle with colon cancer at age 43.

“It’s been a little crazy the last couple days,” Kemp said. “It always feels good to do something and help your team win, and it’s crazy. We come in here after a loss and see Chadwick Boseman passed away -- on Jackie Robinson Day. It’s like we lost the modern-era Jackie Robinson on Jackie Robinson Day.

“It’s just another sad day, especially for me, coming up in the Dodgers organization. I did a special preview of his movie, and he surprised all the kids by coming to that preview. And I caught his first pitch [at Dodger Stadium]. So it’s one of those days where we lost a game and we lost Jackie Robinson, again.”

This has been some week -- especially for Kemp.

Kemp pulled himself from the lineup on Wednesday in Arizona, with Rockies manager Bud Black’s blessing. The move was in solidarity with NBA players who refused to play playoff games Wednesday to protest a videoed police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. -- viewed by many as brutal and unnecessary, and followed by police not stopping an armed teenager who killed two people during protests.

The Rockies then voted not to play in Arizona on Thursday, in solidarity with Kemp, joining many teams and athletes across pro sports.

Given all that, Kemp’s homer -- after Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer’s dropped catch made the 4-0 lead against Padres starter Zack Davies possible -- seemed a moment for a magical night.

Instead, it was the recurrence of season-long offensive struggles -- particularly at home. The Rockies, who dropped to 16-16 overall, wasted Raimel Tapia’s two-out triple in the second and Nolan Arenado’s leadoff single in the third, and they didn’t put one player on base in any inning between the first and the eighth. The homer to Kemp was the only mistake for Davies, who gave four runs but none earned, while striking out six in 5 2/3 innings.

“We’ve talked about that over these first 32 games -- we haven’t clicked on all cylinders offensively,” said Black, who identified as key moments two plate appearances against lefty reliever Phillip Diehl: a left-on-left walk to Jake Cronenworth, and a three-run double by Ty France that led to an 8-4 deficit. “We’ve had some big individual performances, but as a group, there’s been that big hit that’s been lacking during certain times in certain games.

“I think it’s coming. It just hasn’t come so far often enough in these first 32 games.”

Kemp put the home run deep into the evergreen environment beyond the center-field wall, but that didn’t spark the Rockies, who were outhit, 19-9. All three of Kemp’s homers this season have come against the Padres -- a team he played for from 2015-16, part of the time with Black as manager.

Kemp will keep taking his swings, and that means off the field. Kemp, 35, is a member of the Players Alliance, a group of more than 100 Black current and former players pushing to create opportunities for Black people in the sport and beyond. Players Alliance members announced Thursday that they are donating their salaries from Thursday and Friday toward “supporting our efforts to combat racial inequity and aid all the Black families and communities deeply affected in the wake of recent events.”

Kemp said he doesn’t mind taking the occasional negative public feedback.

“If you look at my Instagram, you see a lot of good things, and you see a lot of bad things that people have said,” Kemp said. “People that truly know me as a person -- my family and my friends -- they know where my heart is. That’s pretty much all that matters.”

These times require inspiration, and Kemp drew some from Boseman.

“He’s doing all these movies while he was sick, and nobody really knew what was going on,” Kemp said. “For him to be able to give the fans what they want -- they want to see one of their favorite actors in key roles -- it just shows what type of person he was. My prayers go out to him and his family, and what they’re going through.”