Stepping up to the plate: Get to know Astros standout Tony Kemp

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Wednesday, July 24, 2019
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Get to know more about Tony Kemp

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- When Houston Astros outfielder Tony Kemp isn't diving to make spectacular catches in the outfield, stealing bases or blasting home runs, you might find the 26-year-old fine-tuning his playlist with hits from Drake's latest album "Scorpion."

This is the same album that has spawned the hit "In My Feelings," and subsequently, the dance challenge to the song. While a few of Kemp's teammates have offered their take on the challenge, we've yet to see his own moves.

But before the viral music sensation swept the nation, Kemp was busy getting a trending movement going of his own with Hugs For Homers.

It's quickly become a tradition for the World Series champions. It all started with Kemp jumping into the arms of catcher Evan Gattis whenever Gattis, who is nicknamed Bull, would hit a home run.

But to really get an idea of where all this hugging began, you'll have to look back to Kemp's days with the Astros Triple A affiliate, the Fresno Grizzlies.

"In Triple-A, we had guys come together, and we wanted to celebrate home runs and it kind of turned into a hugging battle. Coming here, having Gattis hit some home runs, jump in his arms, and we thought it was funny, kind of our handshake," Kemp explains.

He created T-shirts with the phrase, which are now for sale. Part of the proceeds will go toward the Astros Youth Academy.

Kemp says he didn't expect Hugs For Homers to get as big as it has.

"Baseball equipment can get expensive. Just being able to donate toward the Astros Youth Academy, and get those kids things that they need to play the sport that they love, especially at a young age. The goal was just to raise money any way that I could, and I never knew that it could get over $5,000," Kemp said. "But it's something that you can definitely go to sleep overnight and feel good about it."

Kemp said he's also received suggestions about a new illustration for the shirt, with some people joking that he could be the one picking up Gattis. "He weighs a little bit more than me," Kemp told ABC13.

He's also making his mark in the community outside of baseball, visiting Houston Fire Department Station 18 on Telephone Road. The Astros Foundation recognized HFD for its service and introduced the Adopt-A-Fire Station Program for 2018.

The station received a Kemp jersey, which was fitting since his number is 18. Firefighters presented Kemp with his own fire hat, which might pair nicely with the fire gear he was outfitted in.

Kemp was called up to the Astros from Fresno on May 16. Since then, he's continued to be a force for the team. Even before his return, he was one of only four Fresno players to receive a World Series ring.

He wasn't with the team during the postseason run for the championship, but he did show off his new bling on Twitter.

Kemp was drafted by the Astros in 2013 in the fifth round from Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Mike Elias, Astros Assistant General Manager and director of amateur scouting, said of Kemp at the time, "The word 'sparkplug' is used quite a bit. He has a ferocious approach at the plate and treats at-bats like they're wars. That wears pitchers out."

Kemp made his major league debut on May 17, 2016 against the Chicago White Sox.

Originally from Franklin, Tennessee, Kemp was a standout at Vanderbilt, where he helped the team reach SEC regular season championships. But his success on the baseball diamond goes even farther back to high school, where he played multiple positions. He also played football.

It turns out, baseball runs in his family. His brother Corey was a former Minor League player under the Brewers' system.

When he's not playing baseball, you might find Kemp taking to the soccer pitch, at least electronically.

He told ABC13 he was rooting for France in the World Cup and credits video games for the reason he became a supporter of Les Bleus.

"Growing up playing FIFA video games, I always just loved the colors and how they played the game on the pitch," Kemp said.

What are some of the other favorites of the Astros outfielder?

Aside from sleeping in, Kemp likes to chow down at Uchi, a sushi restaurant in Houston.

Drake may be dominating his playlist right now, but Kemp says he's actually a huge John Legend fan.

His favorite song is "Ordinary People." But there's nothing ordinary about this Astros player.

SEE ALSO: Astros players visit youth academy, participate in drills