Also, why you'll never see him wearing a Braves hat.
So far, 2013 hasn’t been a great year for Matt Kemp or the Dodgers. Despite a star-laden lineup, and the payroll to match it, Los Angeles is mired in last place in the NL West, and their star slugger has yet to fire on all cylinders. Still, Kemp checked in with Maxim to discuss African Americans in baseball, what it’s like to play for a franchise like the Dodgers, and his new campaign for New Era.
With the release of 42 this year, a lot of attention was put on the Dodgers history, and the role of Jackie Robinson and African Americans in baseball. Is that something you’ve embraced?
It’s definitely special, being a part of the Dodgers organization. I’ve seen the movie a few times, and it’s a great. I’ve done stuff with Jackie’s daughter, and I know his wife really well.
How do you think you would have handled that kind of adversity?
Probably not as good as him. There was really only one man able to handle that kind of abuse. It was pretty bad back in those days.
Why do you think there are less African Americans in baseball today than in the past?
When I was growing up, we went outside and played. We didn’t have PlayStations, and we wouldn’t come back inside until the street lights went off. Nowadays, kids are at home playing video games, or watching TV, or they’re on Facebook and Twitter. And if they’re watching TV, they see these cool commercials with an NBA superstar or a football player. You don’t see a lot of cool commercials with baseball players. Hopefully this "Wear Your Allegiance" campaign I’m doing with New Era will show kids, and especially African Americans, how cool baseball can be.
Are you a hat collector?
I collected, but for me it’s tough. I can’t just wear any old hat that I want. My team growing up was the Braves, but I can’t rock a Braves hat, or any other baseball teams. I have to stick with the LA hats.
You don’t want to be like Tom Brady a few years ago, getting caught wearing a Yankees cap.
Yeah, in Boston they don’t like the Yankees, so you really can’t do that.
The Dodgers have struggled so far this year, but how is Dan Mattingly as a manager?
Donny B. That’s what I call him, Donny B. He’s really cool. Great manager, and he talks to the players really well. Guys listen to him.
The team has gone through a lot of changes in the last couple years.
Oh, definitely. The new owners came in and did a great job changing things up, and making a better a experience at the stadium. You can tell the fans are glad to see the changes.
You were a star basketball player in high school, so in LA, who do you root for, the Lakers or Clippers?
I’ve been a Lakers fan for a long time, and I have a couple of friends on the Clippers, so I have love for both of them.
Who do you think is going to take the title?
The Heat are going to be really tough to beat.
Magic Johnson is one of the Dodgers owners. What’s it like having him as your boss?
He’s great! I mean, he’s one of the greatest NBA players in history, so it’s a great feeling working with him.
He’s getting old though. You think you could take him in 1-on-1?
Oh yeah, I think I can.
Check out Kemp talking with Lane Carter – cap enthusiast extraordinaire – about life on the diamond:
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