Matt Kemp picked for HR Derby
LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp said when he was voted an All-Star starter on Sunday that he would love to participate in the Home Run Derby if team captain Prince Fielder asked him to. That request came on Monday, at which point Kemp not only readily accepted but also kept a promise he made years ago.
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Asked if he will take a personal pitcher with him to Phoenix next week, Kemp said, "Yeah, I'm taking Rob Flippo. He throws batting practice to me every day, and we have been talking about this for the past three years. I told him if I ever made it to the Derby, he was going to come with me."
Flippo, the Dodgers' longtime bullpen catcher, will be making his second trip to the Derby as a pitcher. Hee Seop Choi, the former Dodgers first baseman who was invited to the Derby in Detroit in 2005 despite the fact he wasn't an All-Star that year, also took Flippo.
"I'm definitely excited about it," Kemp said. "I can't wait. I watch it on television just about every year."
Kemp is making his first trip to both the All-Star Game and the Home Run Derby. He entered Tuesday night's game against the New York Mets tied for the NL lead in homers with 22 and with a league-leading .611 slugging percentage. He was hitting .324 with 64 RBIs and a .409 on-base percentage, and his 45 walks are just eight short of his total for last season.
Flippo said Choi asked him to accompany him to Detroit in 2005 just a day or two before they had to leave. This time, he had three years to prepare.
"I told him I have been auditioning for three years now, so make sure I get a shot," Flippo said. "When I first did it, I didn't know what it was going to be like. I was really nervous. But I remember walking around and seeing so many people who looked like they were just looking right past me. I remember thinking, I feel like a ghost down here. The people are there to see the players, so it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be."
Flippo said Choi flew him and his entire family to Detroit and that his son, Ryan, got to shag fly balls on the field during the Derby. This time, Ryan is playing in his own All-Star tournament next week, so Flippo will leave Phoenix early Tuesday morning -- the Derby is Monday night -- and should arrive just in time to see Ryan's first game.
"He picked No. 27 for the tournament,'' Flippo said. "I asked him why, and he said, 'for Matt Kemp.' So I get to watch two No. 27s play on the All-Star team this year."
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.