Kemp feeling the love of Dodgers, fans again

Sun Oct 5, 2014 3:14pm EDT
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By Jahmal Corner

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Matt Kemp has recaptured his loveable status with Los Angeles Dodgers fans, shedding the sour vibes of last year's injury-riddled season. Kemp soaked in the love on Saturday night after his eighth-inning home run vaulted the Dodgers to a 3-2 win over St. Louis and tied their National League Division Series at 1-1.

With Kemp standing near home plate, Dodger Stadium fans chanted his name and team mates showered him with celebratory Gatorade, not once, but twice.

The scene was a long way from what Kemp experienced just a year earlier.

"Last year was tough battling injuries,” Kemp told reporters. “I came back strong. I had my team mates behind me and my family behind me, and we’re here now. I just continue to grind. This is where I want to be.”

It was not always a given that the Dodgers would be Kemp’s club this season. The 30-year-old outfielder was the subject of trade rumors during the off-season as the perception grew that his best days were behind him.

Kemp spent nearly as much time on the operating table as he did the field in 2013 when his campaign was hijacked by ailments. He underwent both shoulder and ankle surgeries and dealt with nagging hamstrings.

By year’s end, Kemp played in just 73 games, his lowest total since his rookie season in Los Angeles in 2006.

But more than physical, the injuries seemed to take their toll on Kemp’s disposition. There were reports that he was unhappy about his lack of playing time in a crowded Dodgers outfield. And while Cuban All-Star Yasiel Puig became the darling of Los Angeles baseball, Kemp faded from the spotlight.   Continued...

October 4, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Matt Kemp (27) has gatorade poured celebrating the 3-2 victory against the St. Louis Cardinals following game two of the 2014 NLDS playoff baseball game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports