Tony Kemp and Mike Yastrzemski, college roommates at Vanderbilt who took vastly different routes to wind up in the Bay Area in 2020, were named Sunday as the 2020 winners of Bill Rigney Good Guy Award for the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants, respectively.
The awards, handed out annually by voting members of the San Francisco-Oakland chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America, go to players whose interactions with the media have been exceptional.
In Kemp’s case, he came to the A’s from the Chicago Cubs in a January trade, landed right in the middle of the revelations of Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal of 2017. Kemp spent most of the season at Triple-A Fresno, but was with the Astros for 17 games, all but two of which came after a September roster expansion callup.
Kemp didn’t take part in the sign stealing, and he didn’t back down from the questions.
“You guys are just doing your job, and doing the media is just part of the job to do,” a suitably surprised Kemp said in a video conference call Sunday morning. “No matter how difficult the questions are, all you guys are wanting are answers, and I think just being able to give you some insight on what’s going on in the locker room is part of it.
“I’ve never shied away from it or had a problem with it. So, I appreciate this.”
As the season progressed into a shutdown over the coronavirus in March and the nation focused on the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Kemp reached out through his +1 Effect campaign, inviting fans and non-fans to engage in conversations about race and racism in American.
"He's been great from Day 1," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "For him to come in and come clean and fit in right away, and then what he's done in the whole social injustice field and the impact he's had in our clubhouse. You know, it's been immense.
"For a guy that's not an everyday player, that is very difficult to do. It just means that he's an impactful person. you picked the right guy for that."
While Kemp had bounce around the big leagues since 2016 with the Astros and the Cubs and an outfielder and second baseman before landing in Oakland, his old roommate, Yastrzemski, didn’t make it to the big leagues until 2019 after slowly making his way through the Baltimore Orioles organization.
The grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski came to the Giants in a trade late in the spring of 2019 and after 40 games at Triple-A Sacramento, made the jump to the big leagues and became a fixture in the Giants outfield with 21 homers and a .272 batting average.
Kemp wasn’t surprised at Yastrzemski’s success.
“He just turned 30 years old so you know people might say he's a late bloomer,” Kemp said. “But his work ethic is unmatched. He's one of those guys that you want in your corner and you want in your clubhouse.”
Kemp also gave a tip of the cap to his college coach, Tim Corbin, who has instruction on dealing with the media as part of the Commodores’ program.
“You learn how to answer questions,” Kemp said. “So, I’m sure Tim Corbin is going to be happy to hear that we both won an award like this and to let him know that what’s doing in college is definitely paying off down the road.”
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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