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Dodgers' Matt Kemp learns more about Jackie Robinson

On the day baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson Day, Kemp listens to stories from Robinson's daughter, Sharon, about what the family endured when her father broke the game's color barrier.

April 16, 2013|By Dylan Hernandez, Los Angeles Times
  • Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp wears No. 42 as he plays center field near a sign on the wall for Jackie Robinson Day.
Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp wears No. 42 as he plays center field near… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

Over the years, the brash young kid has become a respectful student of history, even a teacher.

On a recent day in Arizona, while most of his teammates were watching the Masters in the visiting clubhouse, Matt Kemp sat by himself in an adjacent room taking in a documentary about Jackie Robinson.

"As I get older, I want to learn more," Kemp said. "Growing up, I knew about Jackie Robinson, but I didn't know about the significance of it the way I do now."

Kemp spoke at length Monday about Robinson's impact before the Dodgers celebrated Jackie Robinson Day at Dodger Stadium.

"If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be in this position I'm in right now, living the dream, playing the game I love to play," Kemp said. "I always thank him for that."

Kemp said he has gained insight from Don Newcombe, a former teammate of Robinson's with whom he has forged a close bond.

And he continues to learn from elders. Earlier on Monday, Kemp accompanied Robinson's daughter, Sharon Robinson, on a visit to Washington Middle School in Pasadena. Kemp said Sharon Robinson told him stories of what she had to endure as a high school student because of who her father was.

Kemp visited the school because he wants others to know about Robinson. During spring training, he organized a viewing of the movie "42," which was based on Robinson's life.

He also wants to increase baseball's popularity in the African American community. Of the players who were in the major leagues on opening day, only 8.5% identified themselves as African American.

Kemp thinks part of the problem is in how the sport is marketed.

"You always see like the best basketball players in the world, like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, you always see these big Nike, Adidas, Under Armour commercials," Kemp said. "Like cool basketball commercials and cool football commercials that attract kids. Kids, they watch TV all day, so once they see something on TV, they're going to be like, 'Ooh, I want to be that person.' "

Kemp couldn't think of any baseball players who were part of such advertising campaigns.

"You see like Mike Trout and Ryan Howard on Subway commercials," he said. "Those are the only baseball commercial I ever really see."

Extra security at Dodger Stadium

In response to the bombings in Boston, the Los Angeles Police Department said it would have more officers at and around Dodger Stadium on Monday night.

"We believe Dodger Stadium has been a safe place," officer Sally Nadera said. "This is to reassure the people that Dodger Stadium is safe."

The Dodgers and opposing San Diego Padres brawled at Petco Park last week, raising concerns that violence could spill into the stands at Dodger Stadium this week. But the LAPD had no plans of increasing security at the ballpark until the Boston incidents, Nadera said.

Short hops

Ted Lilly has agreed to resume his minor league rehabilitation assignment Tuesday. Had he not done so, he would likely have forced the Dodgers to trade or release him. … Right-hander Shawn Tolleson was put on the 15-day disabled list because of a lower-back strain. The move is retroactive to Saturday. Tolleson's place on the active roster was taken by Josh Wall, who was recalled from triple-A Albuquerque.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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