The Dodgers’ best player of 2018 was recently given mainstream recognition. Matt Kemp was named National League Player of the Week days ago. Moreover, we’re beginning to get clues as to why we’re seeing a superstar performance from Kemp at an age that is considered many player’s twilight of their career.
Torii Hunter joined David Vassegh on AM570 on Monday, telling Vassegh that he and Kemp spent the offseason working out together.
— AM 570 LA Sports (@AM570LASports) June 5, 2018
“Matt worked hard this offseason to get his body right, to get his mind right. He moved down to Dallas and I just kind of embraced him. I’ve been mentoring Matt for ten years. We had a game plan. This guy was dedicated.”
Hunter said that Kemp took heed of all advice offered to him – advice that allowed Hunter to play 19 big league seasons. Kemp reportedly took Hunter’s advice on doctors, trainers, and even hired a personal chef recommended by the former All-Star to prepare his meals.
Uncovering A New Mindset
The focus was not just on physical well-being between the two athletes. Hunter said that the two philosophically about life, financial security, and change in mindset and mental approach to the game.
Indeed, Kemp has seemed to have a renewed sense of comfort and peace. His style of play we see each night tells the story of a player who at age 33, has been through so much. In this situation, the player we see has the perspective that a young player simply cannot. Through years in the game – both good and bad – Kemp knew entering 2018 that he had to grind to be ready for the grind of his 13th year.
Hunter told Vassegh that a lot of his job was to remind Kemp of the things he already knows.
“I made sure he stayed in a certain mindset and focus. Most guys at his age, they are in a fixed mindset. They’re stuck or set in their ways. (Matt) chose to have a growth mindset, and ‘how can I play a little longer’.”
Hunter said it’s extremely gratifying for him to see the work they put in equate to Kemp’s success.
Kemp’s Health Contributing To The Clubhouse
Torii Hunter said that he can tell Kemp is healthy and that his weight his down. He believes that this allows Kemp to flourish as a teammate and influence in the Dodgers’ clubhouse.
“He’s grown up, he’s matured. What he’s doing on the field right now, everyone knows he’s capable of. But he actually got his mind right, he’s changed his life and mindset. And I think this guy is going to play for a little while longer.”
One instance that comes to mind was when Kemp took a struggling Cody Bellinger to the chiropractor recently. Bellinger went out that day and homered. He looked into the dugout and pointed at a smiling Kemp who yelled ‘chiropractor!’ at Bellinger in the dugout. Obviously, Kemp is taking the time to show young players the importance of taking care of their bodies during the season.
It’s great to hear a respected veteran of the game beam about the work Kemp put in to resurrect his on-field career. Hunter mentioned that he did and said some things as a young player he wasn’t proud of; but found a way to make good on those things as an older player. He said that he sees Kemp doing the same things, trying to right whatever wrong paths he may have taken as a youngster.
The Dodgers have Matt Kemp – and indirectly Torii Hunter – for one of the biggest stories of the 2018 season. It’s possible that Kemp’s work with Hunter in the offseason set the tone for an MVP quality season at age 33. Moreover, it’s hard to imagine where the Dodgers would be without this current version of Kemp hitting in the middle of the order each day.
You can listen to the full interview of Torii Hunter and David Vassegh by clicking here.
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