Matt Kemp wins Hank Aaron Award
Matt Kemp was recognized as the top offensive player in the National League on Monday, when he became the first Dodger to win the Hank Aaron Award.
Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays won the American League version of the award, which was established in 1999.
Ballots were cast by a panel of eight Hall of Famers, including Aaron, and fans.
Kemp, 27, was a triple-crown contender and was one home run short of becoming the fifth player in baseball history to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season.
Kemp led the NL in home runs, RBIs (126), runs (115) and total bases (353). He became the seventh player in major league history to rank in the top three in his league in home runs, batting average, RBIs and stolen bases.
“It's definitely a dream come true,” said Kemp, who was accompanied by more than a half-dozen family members including parents Judy and Carl and his grandparents. “Hopefully I can keep dreaming and keep going, keep this dream alive.”
“To win MVP is something you dream of as a kid, being the best,” said Kemp, who received a warm hug from former Dodger Manager Joe Torre, now a high-ranking baseball executive, when he entered the room where the award was presented. “If I win it, I'm definitely going to be happy, one of the happiest people in the world.
“But if I don't, that means I've got to work harder to win it next year.”
Kemp's agent, former major league pitcher Dave Stewart, went so far as to compare Kemp to Willie Mays.
"You don't want to put that tag on Matt," Stewart said Monday. "That would be unfair. Willie Mays could be one of the top two or three players of all time. But there’s a lot of likeness there for me."
Stewart said he and Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti have started discussing the possibility of a long-term contract extension for Kemp, who can be a free agent at the end of next season.
"We're in the cordial stages," Stewart said.
-- Dylan Hernandez and Kevin Baxter
Photo: Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp gets ready for his turn at-bat during a game against the Reds this summer. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times