Kemp earns 4th straight Clemente Award nomination

September 9th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Martín Gallegos’ A’s Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ARLINGTON -- Growing up a baseball-loving teenager in Tennessee, idolized outfielder Curtis Granderson. Not only for the three-time All-Star’s tantalizing combination of speed and power, but also for the various philanthropic efforts he was involved in over the years.

“He was giving back to the community while also hitting home runs and making all these cool plays,” Kemp said. “I felt like I could relate to him. It was like, ‘Oh, he’s human.’”

Kemp’s desire to get involved in his community at a young age was heavily influenced by Granderson. He soon began to join his then-girlfriend, now-wife, Michelle, on trips to deliver meals to homeless families around the Nashville area.

“She always did it every Sunday with her family and I would tag along and go a couple of times,” Kemp said. “I saw what they were doing and it kind of put me in a sense of, ‘Hey, I need to be doing my part as well.’”

As Kemp has grown into his eight-year big league career, so has his charitable involvement. These days, his contributions range from environmental awareness as a player ambassador for Players for the Planet and One Tree Planted by pledging to plant 100 trees in urban communities for every stolen base and extra-base hit he records this season, as well as partnering with HCP Cureblindness -- an organization whose mission is to eradicate preventable and curable blindness throughout under-resourced communities -- to donate $100 for every walk he draws.

Kemp has indeed followed in the footsteps of his hero. Before Friday’s 6-3 win over the Rangers at Globe Life Field, he was announced as the A’s 2023 nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which Granderson received in 2016.

The Roberto Clemente Award is given every year to the Major Leaguer who best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field. For Kemp, this marks his fourth consecutive nomination by the A’s for the prestigious honor.

“If you were going to tell me that I was going to be nominated for the Clemente Award four years in a row, I wouldn’t believe you,” Kemp said. “You don’t do it to get recognized. You just do it out of the goodness of your heart. When I saw the news, it still caught me by surprise. It’s just humbling. When you’re in the same category as a Hall of Famer, especially one that did what he did in the community, it’s something that I don’t take lightly.”

Kemp’s latest philanthropic venture was a spur-of-the-moment idea.

After unveiling a custom pair of cleats themed after the "Hey Arnold!" 90s cartoon, along with custom bats during a road trip in St. Louis last month, he took note of how the pictures of his new gear blew up with likes and views on social media. With the devastating Maui wildfires having occurred about a week prior, Kemp reached out to his agency to set up an online fundraiser by auctioning off each item.

In total, Kemp’s three custom Old Hickory bats and pair of custom cleats raised nearly $3,000 in relief funds. On top of that, Kemp added a personal $500 donation.

“I just feel like in life sometimes, if it doesn’t happen to us, we don’t really understand,” Kemp said. “What if that was happening in our hometown right now and we had to be evacuated from our homes? You just help when you can. That’s all it was.”

Now considered a “veteran” on a young A’s squad featuring several rookies, Kemp hopes to serve as an example of how they can utilize their wide-ranging platform to make an impact off the field.

“I hope just being nominated sheds light for more guys to give back,” Kemp said. “I know it’s really hard because we’re so wrapped up into the season and there’s a lot on our plates. I just want people to understand that whenever Clemente is mentioned, that they understand while he was also a heck of a baseball player, he cared about the people. That’s one of the biggest things I always think about, helping people that can’t necessarily do the same for you.”