07/17/12 11:50 PM ET
'Real Sports' goes behind scenes with Kemp
By Andrew Simon / Special to MLB.com
"I want to see what it feels like to win a World Series in L.A. So I've got to step my game up," Kemp told correspondent Jon Frankel of HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel."
Frankel spent time with Kemp last month for a segment titled, "Prince of L.A.," which premiered on the program Tuesday night. Topics included Kemp's childhood in Oklahoma, his first callup to the Majors, his trying 2010 season and his breakout 2011.
The 27-year-old center fielder has served two stints on the disabled list this year with hamstring injuries, but he began Tuesday hitting .358 with 12 home runs and 28 RBIs in 39 games.
Frankel visited Kemp at his new home in the Hollywood Hills, where the two discussed Kemp's path from Midwest City, Okla., to Tinseltown. Kemp's mother Judy Henderson, who raised her son by herself, also spoke with Frankel and revealed the young Kemp's love of Pop-Tarts, as well as his self-sufficiency. Kemp frequently took care of himself while Henderson worked to support them.
Kemp moved Henderson to Los Angeles after signing his $160 million deal this winter, but not everything up to that point was smooth sailing. He struggled mightily in 2010, hitting .249 with a .310 on-base percentage and drawing criticism from general manager Ned Colletti, among others.
"It hurt a little bit," Kemp told Frankel. "For me, I never really experienced failure. And there were times I shed a tear or two because I was trying to figure out exactly what the [heck] was wrong with me in 2010. I couldn't understand it."
Kemp also dated pop star Rihanna that year, and as Frankel put it, people felt, "the kid from Oklahoma had gone Hollywood."
Kemp then described the transformation he underwent going into the 2011 season, when he finished second in the National League MVP voting to Ryan Braun. He and manager Don Mattingly also discussed the frustration of this season's injuries, the latter of which led Kemp to snap a bat over his leg in the dugout.
But even in that, the focus was on the positives.
"I liked how much he cared about playing," Mattingly told Frankel. "That to me was beautiful."
HBO will air the episode several more times, through at least early August.
Andrew Simon is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.