Matt Kemp, Take A Bow

Today was Matt Kemp day at Camelback Ranch, as the three full-time Dodger beat writers wrote features on the star center fielder:

My favorite part of the three articles, which all focused on Kemp's rising status both in and out of baseball, came in the LA Times piece, as Hernandez captured the playful nature of teammate Casey Blake:

Many interviews early in spring training start the same way: How was your winter?

"Unbelievable," Matt Kemp said.

Casey Blake interrupted.

"Are you kidding?" he said. "Did you check out the magazines? You know he had a great off-season."

Kemp doubled over in a half-smile, half-grimace and whispered something to Blake, who laughed.

I would pay to see Kemp and Blake in a buddy comedy.  But Casey has to regrow the beard, or the deal is off.

Kemp could join some rare company this season.  Here is the full list of Dodger center fielders (80 games or more in CF) who have hit 30 home runs in a season:

Player Year HR
Duke Snider 1950 31
Duke Snider 1953 42
Duke Snider 1954 40
Duke Snider 1955 42
Duke Snider 1956 43
Duke Snider 1957 40
Jimmy Wynn 1974 32
Raul Mondesi    1998 30

Kemp, who slugged .490 last season, narrowly missed becoming the first Dodger center fielder with a .500 slugging percentage since Duke Snider, who had a .587 in the club's final season in Brooklyn.  Might Kemp become the first Los Angeles Dodger to do so?  I wouldn't put it past The Bison, who was at an even .500 slugging percentage after his second at-bat in game 157 last season.

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As Kemp's profile begins to grow, this weekend offers a rare glimpse at one of the most private superstars in sports history.  Sandy Koufax will join Dodger manager Joe Torre and LA Times columnist T.J. Simers at the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles this Saturday.  Torre told Gurnick how the pairing came together:

"T.J. said, 'Why don't you ask him?' So, I asked him," said Torre. "He called me back and asked me to explain what was going on, and I did, and he said, 'I don't normally do this, but I'll do it for you.'

"I was very touched by that, and I'm looking forward to it. I think it's going to be a lot of fun."

"I love Joe Torre; he's one of my favorite people in the world," said Simers. "Anyone who spends any time with him knows how down to earth he is. What makes Koufax so attractive is that no one really knows what he's like anymore, so when Joe got his approval ... unbelievable."

Tickets are still available for the event, which benefits Torre's Safe at Home foundation.

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Torre said today that he has an idea who will take the hill in Pittsburgh on opening day, but he hasn't yet announced it.  If I had to guess right now who it will be, I'll pick Hiroki Kuroda.

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Former Dodger general manager and current AriBall mogul Fred Claire caught up with NLDS hero and recent retiree Mark Loretta for MLB.com.  Loretta, like our own Phil Gurnee, had an experience in dating while listening to the Kirk Gibson home run in the car:

"I can remember exactly where I was and the feeling I had when Gibson hit that home run because I was a great Dodger fan," recalled Loretta. "I was a senior in high school and had been out on a date with a girl at a Chinese restaurant and wanted to get back to the car to listen to the game. I can still hear the call of that home run."

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Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts takes a look at the Dodger lineup, and is down with OBP.

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Happy birthday to organist Nancy Bea Hefley.  Steve Dilbeck of the LA Times tells us Hefley has a new three-year contract through 2012.  Hefley, beginning her 23rd year with the Dodgers, followed former organist Helen Dell, who was with the club for 18 years.  We are nearing an Alston-Lasorda level of longevity here.

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