By KEVIN WARNERCentennial High school alum Tony Kemp learned the game of baseball by hitting balls in the backyard with his older brother Corey at the age of 4. He now hits in much bigger yards.
Centennial High school alum Tony Kemp learned the game of baseball by hitting balls in the backyard with his older brother Corey at the age of 4. He now hits in much bigger yards.
Kemp now calls Hawkins Field home, batting lead-off for the Vanderbilt Commodores in the Southeastern Conference.
In 2011, The now 5’7, 165 pound Kemp hit .329 with 34 RBIs, and helped Vanderbilt reach the College World Series for the first time in school history. He was named to the All-Tournament Team to go along with his SEC Freshman of the Year and Freshman All-American honors. He also owns the first hit at TD Ameritrade Park in College World Series history.
“That experience was unbelievable, just coming in not knowing if I was going to be able to play that year, starting the first game, I don’t think I looked back from there,” Kemp said.
Although he never looked back since beginning his Commodore career, returning with the Commodores to the NCAA Tournament last year, his accomplishments and athleticism in high school still amaze his former coach Rob Baughman.
“Tony was an outstanding athlete at CHS but he was even a better kid,” Baughman said. “I had the pleasure of watching Tony play four years, and he did some things on the field that were amazing. Some of the catches he made were MLB-like, and you just say to yourself, wow!
“My kids want to be like Tony when they grow up and I think that says it all about Tony.”
Kemp lettered all four years in football and baseball. He played multiple positions in the outfield for Baughman with a batting average of .540 his senior season and earned First Team All-Midstate honors for the second straight year.
Off the field, Kemp spent all four years on the Academic Honor Roll in high school and earned a Merit Award, all while being president of his Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at CHS. Kemp continues his academic success, making the SEC Academic Honor Roll last year.
Kemp etched his name in the Vandy record books on Feb. 24 against Monmouth when he recorded his 16th career triple. That number has since improved to 18.
But Kemp always puts team success before his individual success.
“Those accolades are really nice, but I really don’t look at them that much,” Kemp said. “It’s not even about me or what All-American rankings I can achieve, it’s all about the team.”
Kemp showed he was all about the team when he changed positions mid-season a year ago.
“It takes a rare athlete to make a move from the outfield to second base in the middle of the season and play it proficiently,” Vanderbilt Head Coach Tim Corbin said about Kemp on the VU Athletics website. “His physical tools are uncommon and his positive personality is infectious. He is one of the most exciting players we have had in our program in quite some time.”
Kemp’s current batting average stands at .389, with 37 hits, 18 RBIs and a .516 slugging percentage.
Kemp hopes to help lead the Commodore program, currently fifth in the USA Today Coaches Poll, to a SEC Tournament Championship and make a return trip to the College World Series in 2013.
He started playing in his backyard, and although Kemp may make a few more trips to Omaha, “bigger” yards may be in his future.