Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp celebrates after hitting a walk-off single… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
Matt Kemp, whose priorities were questioned by club officials as recently as a year ago, was voted by his teammates as the winner of the Roy Campanella Award as the Dodgers' most inspirational player.
"I'm surprised," Kemp said.
He shouldn't be.
Kemp, who will be presented the award by the daughter of the late catcher in a pregame ceremony Wednesday night, has played in 356 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the major leagues.
"I've always wanted to play every single day," said Kemp, one of the leading candidates to win the National League's most-valuable-player award.
Told that even the most resilient of players takes an occasional day off, Kemp replied, "Cal Ripken didn't."
Manager Don Mattingly said Kemp has endured his share of bumps and bruises like any other player.
"You just don't know about it," Kemp said. "I keep it to myself."
Kemp said he has tried to model himself after former teammate Juan Pierre, who won the Campanella award in 2009. Pierre, who plays for the Chicago White Sox, once had baseball's longest active consecutive games streak.
"Really, he's probably one of the biggest reasons why," Kemp said. "He never wanted to take a day off."
Mattingly said when a player of Kemp's caliber insists on playing every day, it has a positive effect on clubhouse culture.
"They know how tough it is," he said.
In the clubhouse and the dugout, Kemp has emerged as the team's vocal leader, Mattingly said.
"There's no doubt they feed off him," Mattingly said.
Mattingly said awards voted on by players carry a special meaning.
"When players vote, you know it's a real respect," Mattingly said.
Particularly this group of players.
"I'm close to my teammates," Kemp said. "This team is really an unbelievable team. We all talk, we go out to eat. We have a lot of fun in the clubhouse."
Jonathan Broxton underwent surgery Monday to clean up his elbow. Mattingly said he expected Broxton to "be really good again," but said he wasn't sure whether he could encourage General Manager Ned Colletti to re-sign the pitcher because of his uncertain health. Broxton will be a free agent after the season. "Anybody that signs Brox is taking some sort of risk," Mattingly said. … The Dodgers confirmed that former manager Tom Lasorda will be in the Dodgers bench Thursday as an honorary coach. … Tony Gwynn Jr. remained unavailable to hit or play defense because of a jammed shoulder.