Not long ago, Mike Yastrzemski and Tony Kemp were chopping it up in Vanderbilt’s Ingram Commons, home to the university’s freshmen. They were college students. They were roommates. And soon enough, they were best buds.
While the two were initially drawn together by their talents on the baseball field, as both played a role on Tim Corbin’s coveted Vanderbilt baseball program, it didn’t take long for them to recognize a connection off the field. Evidently, it didn’t take long for the San Francisco-Oakland chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America to recognize it either.
On Sept. 20, the chapter named Kemp and Yastrzemski the Bill Rigney Good Guy Award winners for the Athletics and Giants, respectively; an award given to players whose interactions with the media have been exceptional.
For Kemp, the award came as a result of an immense display of patience, respect and courtesy—not an easy task for the former Houston Astro. In January, Kemp landed in Oakland after being traded from the Chicago Cubs, but his 17-game stint with the 2017 Houston Astros put him in a tough situation.
Time and time again, members of the media had to ask him about the sign stealing scandal. And in each instance, Kemp answered as he best could, not backing down from any question.
“You guys are just doing your job, and the media is just part of the job to do,” Kemp told the media on a Zoom call. “No matter how difficult the questions are, all you guys are wanting are answers, and I think just being able to give you some insight on what’s going on in the locker room is part of it. I’ve never shied away from it or had a problem with it. So, I appreciate this.”
An eventful offseason saw Kemp also be nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award after starting the +1 Effect, an initiative that invites people to engage in conversations about racism in America.
On the other hand, Yastrzemski, the grandson of former Red Sox star and Hall of Famer Carl, is newer to the major leagues. While Kemp prepares to cap off his fifth MLB season, Yastrzemski is finishing his second big league season with the San Francisco Giants. And the rising star may have less experience with the MLB media, but his professionalism is just as strong, receiving a Bill Rigney Good Guy Award of his own.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that two former VandyBoys won the award, according to Kemp. Their head coach Tim Corbin, also a Baseball Advisor for Music City Baseball, instilled this sense of respect in every player that’s entered his program.
“You learn how to answer questions,” Kemp said. “So, I’m sure Tim Corbin is going to be happy to hear that we both won an award like this and to let him know that what’s doing in college is definitely paying off down the road.”