The Fresno Grizzlies’ Tony Kemp is off to a hot start, hitting .359 through the first 11 games of the season.
It’s an impressive beginning for the 25-year-old infielder/outfielder who has worked his way up through the minor-league ranks since being chosen by the Houston Astros in the fifth round of the 2013 draft.
Kemp split his first year with the short-season Class-A Tri-City ValleyCats and Class-A Quad Cities River Bandits. In 2014, he split the season between High A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi, where he played until his promotion to Triple-A Fresno in June 2015.
He did OK in Fresno, hitting .273 with 29 RBIs through the season. But in the postseason he turned heads, hitting .405 with three doubles, nine RBIs and seven runs scored to be named the Pacific Coast League’s Playoffs MVP.
The hard work didn’t go unnoticed as Kemp was a non-roster invitee of the Astros to spring training in March. He was like a sponge, soaking in as much of the big-league atmosphere as he could.
“It was one heck of an experience just to be around and talk to (Jose) Altuve and be around guys like (George) Springer and (Carlos) Gomez,” Kemp said.
“Just to be able to see their routines, their work ethic, you know, what they bring to the field every day. It’s something special to see and that’s why they’re major-league players.
“You kind of want to get a gist of what they’re doing and incorporate it into what you bring to the field everyday.”
You just take it one pitch at a time and one at-bat at a time. It’s all you can do when you bring yourself to the field every day.
Tony Kemp, Fresno Grizzlies second baseman/outfielder
It’s paid off, with Kemp driving the Grizzlies’ offense from the leadoff spot. Defensively, he’s started four games at second base and the other seven between left and center field. (He’s had no errors in 15 total chances.)
Wherever Kemp plays, he remains grounded, knowing his discipline and patience will be tested as a minor-league backup to All-Stars Altuve and Gomez. Kemp knows the possibility that his big break to the majors might not come with the Astros, but he doesn’t like to think about “what ifs,” instead he just focuses on his routine.
“You can’t get caught in the mindset of looking down into the future too much,” he said. “You just have to stay within yourself every day and make sure you’re putting in the necessary hours and work to make yourself better every day. ... There’s always someone watching you and that’s why you work hard and never take any pitches off.”