Kemmer makes his way back to a Major League organization
By Kenn Staub
For the CLARION NEWS
Act II of Jon Kemmer's 2019 baseball season began Thursday, June 27 when he suited up for the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers after playing the previous three months for the Generales de Durango of the Mexican Baseball League (LMB).
Kemmer celebrated his return to baseball in the United States with a walk-off double that night, giving the Dodgers a 6-5 victory over the New Orleans Baby Cakes.
The curtain closed on Act I two days prior when the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Kemmer to a contract shortly after the LMB's All-Star game. The Generales announced the signing on Tuesday, June 25, sponsoring a fan send-off for the popular Shippenville-native prior to that evening's game.
Discussing his signing, Kemmer said, "It was kind of just out of the blue. We got done with three games after the all-star break and my agent messaged me and said, Hey, the Dodgers might be interested, what do you think?'"
Once confirming that the offer from the Dodgers was for a spot on the team's Triple-A roster, Kemmer was all-in. "I said, Where do I sign?' So it was just kind of spur of the moment. We started talking Sunday (June 23) and it was official on Tuesday," reported Kemmer.
Kemmer made the most of his time in the LMB after being released by the Minnesota Twins toward the end of spring training. The Clarion Area High School product batted .355 with 21 home runs and 49 RBI in 58 games with the Generales. He also earned his first trip as a professional to an all-star game, going 1-for-3 with an RBI in the LMB showcase that saw his North squad defeat the South, 11-6.
"It (the All-Star game) was fantastic. It was just a big accomplishment. I got to play with a couple guys I remember watching on tv. I got to play with Erick Aybar, I remember watching him throughout the years with the big leagues so it was kind of a surreal moment," said Kemmer.
"And the fans down there were astronomically crazy. It was fantastic. I think there were close to 60,000 to 70,000 people at the all-star game, which was nuts."
Kemmer was very complimentary of the fans overall. "Being in a different atmosphere and a different country with the language barrier, I thought it would be a little tougher transition. But the fans and people down there were fantastic and welcomed you with open arms and understood that you really didn't speak that much Spanish. They kind of helped you out with that. It was great just being super welcomed," he said.
On the diamond, Kemmer thought the hitting in the LMB was comparable to that of Triple-A, with the main difference being pitching. "Really the biggest thing was the velocity difference. There's been a little more consistent velocity up here (in Triple-A), you see a lot more guys in the 90s and close to 100 (miles an hour). Down there most of the starters were 88, 90. There were a couple guys out of the pen that would throw in the 90s," noted Kemmer.
Because of this, Kemmer has spent much of the early going with Oklahoma City making adjustments at the plate. He explained, "Now it's more or less just trying to get adjusted back to the speed. I made a decent amount of adjustments, but I'm definitely not where I want to be yet. It's coming."
Kemmer credits his success in the LMB to a better mental approach at the plate. "My mental attitude toward the game has been much better this year, to where if I start off a little bit slow I can kind of get myself back into it. Make a really good game and make adjustments," said Kemmer.
"There's been a couple of games where I would start off really rough, like 0-for-2 with two strikeouts, and been able to kind of turn that day around. In the past it would be more or less a tough mental day to kind of battle though."
He also believes that not putting extra pressure on himself was a factor in his performance. "I didn't really put any added pressure on myself. Really the pressure you get is if you put it on yourself. And I really didn't do that when I was in Mexico," Kemmer explained.
"When I got traded last year to the Twins, I put so much added pressure on myself, that I had to do this, I had to do that.' Now it's more or less like I'm just going to do my job, see the ball, and try to do the best I can. That's what I'm going to do every day."
With his return to Triple-A Kemmer believes he might be back on Major League Baseball's radar, saying, "I think Mexico really kind of helped me out with that. I don't really know of anyone that expected me to go down there and play as well. Just getting the chance to get called back up into the MiLB (Minor League Baseball) is kind of a big accomplishment."
In the 11 games he has played in since joining Oklahoma City Kemmer has batted .200, with six of his eight hits going for extra bases (two doubles, four home runs). He has six RBIs.
The Pacific Coast League, of which Oklahoma City is a part, has been on an All-Star break since Sunday. Oklahoma City's regular season resumes today (July 11) in Memphis.