Kempís success no surprise for high school coach
By Marcus Stone, Sports Editor
Few people, if any, know Vanderbilt baseball standout Tony Kemp better than Rob Baughman.
Baughman not only was Kemp’s head baseball coach for four years at Centennial High School, but was his offensive coordinator during football season where Kemp also earned four varsity letters.
The relationship goes even farther back though as Baughman remembers having to wipe a young Kemp’s nose as his physical education coach in fifth and sixth grade.
Having known Kemp for no less than 11 years, Baughman is not even a little surprised by his former player’s success with the No. 2 ranked Commodores.
“Nothing he does surprises me,” said Baughman. “He’s a freak of nature as far as athletes go.”
Listed at 5-foot-6, Kemp has been versatile since his high school days. He played three positions as a star on the Cougar football team (running back, quarterback, and wide receiver) while playing center field on the baseball diamond.
Baughman never played him in the infield because he was too valuable for Centennial in the outfield.
Kemp was asked to move from left field to second base in his sophomore year at Vanderbilt after winning Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year one season prior. It did not faze him.
Now in his second season in the infield, the junior won SEC Player of the Year honors, leading the conference in batting average, on-base percentage, and stolen bases.
“He’s one of a kind,” Baughman said. “There’s something special about Tony and it goes beyond the athletic field. He’s just a cool kid.”
The two speak often, at least once a week, and rarely does the subject steer towards baseball.
Having Vandy baseball consume most of his time, Kemp prefers to keep the conversation centered on his high school.
“He and I talk quite a bit about Centennial,” Baughman said. “There’s nobody more proud than Tony about us going to the state tournament this year. That’s what’s cool about Tony – he’s all about his teammates and about where he came from.”
The Cougars finished 2013 with a 31-11 record, earning the District 11-AAA and Region 6-AAA Tournament titles – both firsts for the school.
Baughman, who also taught Kemp’s brother and sister, remains close with the entire family.
When talking about Tony, the first thing he brings up is not that he was an All-District player three times, All-Tournament twice, and First-Team All-State twice while at Centennial. He talks about the person Kemp is and how his smile is infectious,
“He’s full of life and full of energy,” he said. “He doesn’t ever get down. He’s always a happy kid no matter what.”
It’s hard for Kemp to be unhappy recently as Vanderbilt beat Georgia Tech 7-1 June 3 to advance to an NCAA Super Regional against Louisville. Two wins against the Cardinals and Vandy is back in the College World Series for the second time in Kemp’s college career.
Posted on: 6/5/2013