Playing in the minor leagues is very different from playing in MLB. Between low attendance and tough travel, it can be hard for a recent draftee to adjust to the lifestyle. Brandon Magee sat down with Red Sox outfielder Trenton Kemp to discuss what his first full year as a professional baseball player has been like.
Trenton Kemp was drafted in the 15th round by the Boston Red Sox in the 2014 first year player draft out of Clovis, California. Kemp, an outfielder, started slowly for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox last season, batting .139/.225/.139 in his first eleven games as a professional. He picked up the pace in his final 26 games, hitting .265/.351/.470 with eight doubles and three home runs. He excelled in the four GCL playoff games, going 8-for-15 with a home run and a walk as the GCL Red Sox won the 2014 championship.
Kemp returned to the Gulf Coast League in his second season of professional baseball, where he started out with hits in his first seven starts. Kemp struggled in the middle of the season, batting just .164/.345/.254 over 24 games, but with 15 walks and one game where he was plunked four times. Kemp turned it on in his final eight games with the GCL, batting .321/.424/.571 with a double, three triples and five walks.
Trent Kemp was promoted to the Lowell Spinners on August 26th, going 0-for-4 in his New York-Penn League debut and was gracious enough to grant SoSH Baseball an interview last Friday before playing his third game with the Spinners.
Q: What was it like to be drafted and to be signed? What were your emotions?
A: I was drafted last year. I spent time with the GCL last season. This year is my first full season. It’s an incredible experience coming down from the GCL and then coming up here. It’s pretty much two totally different things. Over there, we play morning and afternoon games, it’s real hot. I’ve noticed the last couple of days since I’ve been up here, we obviously play at night. We get to sleep in a little bit. It’s two different things and it takes some time to adapt to. But, I’m loving it.
Q: Last year when you first signed, you were assigned to the GCL. The Red Sox tend to not play the younger players as much during their first season. What did you do while you weren’t playing? What was the training regimen like?
A: A regular day… practice in the morning. Last year was getting adapted to pro baseball. Trying to get a routine down that you do everyday. Big thing for me was taking care of my body. I figured out multiple ways to take care of my body, take care of my legs, and get myself healthy on the field. I think that really benefitted me last year. Not playing as much as a second year guy, but getting in here, getting into a routine and learning how to take care of my body.
Q: Last year you played with the GCL team that won the Gulf Coast League Championship. They are having another great season this year. What was it like to be on a championship team and how did that help you grow?
A: The Red Sox organization always preaches “Chase Winning, Chase Winning.” It’s just incredible that I’ve been blessed with the teammates that I’ve had. Last year we had a ton of talent, we had Javier Guerra at shortstop. This year we’ve had an incredible pitching staff. Couple of guys stepped up, some high school guys stepped up. I’m blessed to say I’ve been a part of two phenomenal teams in my first two pro seasons.
A: Espinoza, he’s probably the best pitcher I’ve seen from a pro standpoint. I’m playing left field, I could probably close my eyes half the time. He’s incredible, he’s going to be fun to watch as he continues to grow. He’s really young, so he’s only going to get better.
[Roniel] just pounds the zone. That’s all you have to ask for down here. He has a good curve ball. He has plus command. They’re both really good. The Red Sox fanbase should be excited.
Q: Last night, the Spinners lost to the Connecticut Tigers 3-2 in 12 innings. How hard is it to come back the next day after a tough loss?
A: Last night was awfully tough, scoring a run in the 12th and then having them come back and get it. Yesterday is yesterday, you kind of got to flush it. Doesn’t matter what happened yesterday. You could have struck out four times yesterday, it’s a new day today. You could have hit four home runs yesterday. Today is a new day.
Q: What do you need to work on as you continue to grow and move forward in the organization? What is your plan for the off-season? What are the Red Sox plans for you in the off-season?
A: For me, I’ve been talking to the strength and conditioning coaches and they want me to add a little bit of weight to my frame. As far as playing-wise, baseball-wise, I think all young hitters need to work on their approach to the game. It comes over time. It comes with at bats. For me, I can get better with anything. Footwork in the outfield, you can always get better there. You can always be a better baserunner. That’s pretty much everything, trying to synchronize it into one unit.
Q: Do you see any differences between the GCL and the New York Penn League?
A: The whole GCL and New York-Penn League are two opposite things. I got the call a couple days ago. I got off the plane and I was in the lineup. It’s just crazy. The pitching is a little bit better, the command is a little bit better. You have fans at the game. You play at night. It’s just totally different. You have to adapt to it a little bit, it was a little bit tough, but that’s baseball.
Q: That has to be a strange experience… going from high school, with friends and family and other fans, and then going to the GCL where you don’t play in front of anyone. What is it like to not play in front of anyone but your teammates?
A: In high school, I played at a pretty big time baseball school. We had three or four thousand people at every game. Going to the GCL, take a look around, Wow! There is really no one here. You have to play for your teammates, you’ve got to find any way to grind it out there today. Because that is what the GCL is, spring training, extended spring training. It’s just a grind. You have no one looking at you playing, you’re playing at noon everyday, and it’s hot. You just have to figure out how to get through it.
Saturdays are 10 A.M. games, you’re dog tired most of the time, and you just have to get yourself ready for the game.
Q: With Lowell, they’ve always had a fantastic situation from a fan standpoint. Going to Lowell and having such a fan base, how excited does that make you feel?
A: It’s awesome. A couple of days ago, I played my first game there. Stands were packed. It was remarkable. After two years without any fans to Lowell, Massachusetts and a ton of people. It was awesome. Gets your adrenaline pumping.
The Spinners had another tough game against the Connecticut Tigers on Friday night, losing 1-0. Trent Kemp picked up his first NYPL hit in the game, however, a double to deep left in the sixth inning.
SoSHBaseball would like to thank Trent for being so gracious with his time. We would also like to thank the Connecticut Tigers and the Lowell Spinners organizations for their generous cooperation.