Tony Kemp is still in the getting-to-know-you phase of his time with the Oakland A’s.
He came over in a trade with the Cubs as the last were looking for a left-handed bat to enter the club’s competition at second base.
Kemp has reason to feel well-acclimated. During baseball’s more than three-month COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the death of George Floyd reignited the discussion of race in America. Kemp was depressed for a bit, but then he decided to go on social media, reaching out to people who wanted to know more about the Black Lives Matter movement.
If someone wanted to do something or just needed to talk, Kemp was there.
So were the A’s. Manager Bob Melvin reached out to Kemp to let him know he was proud of what he was doing and was thoroughly behind him and his +1Effect, a campaign he went public with four weeks ago. Sales of T-shirts are helping to fund anti-racism work.
“That guy (Melvin) is amazing to talk to, and he understands the stance,” Kemp said during a video conference call Monday. “He sent me a text in the midst of the campaign: `It’s great to see what you’re doing; I can’t wait to get you on the field soon.’”
For Melvin, it was a way to reach out to a relatively new player and a way to support a cause he believes in.
“I wanted to let a player who hasn’t been here know I absolutely support what he’s doing and I’m glad he's doing it,” Melvin said Monday. “Sometimes when you’re on a new team, you’re reluctant to get out in the forefront, so I wanted to let him know I was proud of him for doing it and support everything he does.”
Kemp is having about five dozen of the shirts shipped to the Bay Area to give to A’s teammates and the Oakland staff. But some beat him to the punch.
“What’s been cool is that I had only played a couple of games with these guys (before baseball was shut down),” he said. “So, it actually is cool to see Matt Olson and Marcus Semien and Jake Diekman and Liam Hendricks and (assistant hitting coach) Eric Martins had actually bought the shirt on their own.
“That’s big deal because I've only been on this team for a couple months now and to see the how people have generous, respecting the campaign, it means a lot. You know teammates have your back and you know they support it. So, I've been happy with that.”
Kemp said that he and his wife went through about 120 online message requests in the last couple of days, which only reinforces Kemp’s desire to keep reaching out.
He said that many of MLB’s Black players will be uniting around anti-racism efforts for opening day by taking a knee, wearing a piece of black cloth on their uniform or by holding a black hat over the heart during the anthem.
Without being specific, Kemp said “I plan to be a part of it.”
“It’s one thing to talk about what you’re going to do, but without action, it doesn’t mean anything.”
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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