For the longest time, for some unknown reason, Jimmy Kemp was a slugger without a college home.
The Hudson Catholic senior, the 2019 Hudson Reporter Co-Player of the Year, did not have a single scholarship offer from an NCAA Division I school. It made no sense, considering that Kemp merely batted .576 last season with six doubles, five triples, six home runs and 40 RBI.
Kemp had one game where he had seven RBI and two games where he collected five RBI.
Simply put, the young man is a profound slugger, perhaps the best slugger Hudson County has produced in a very long time.
But yet, for some reason, the colleges were staying away. The only legit excuse for the lack of college interest was that Kemp did suffer injuries in each of his first two seasons of high school ball at the McGinley Square school, but his performance last spring was without question worthy of college attention.
When asked about the reasons why Kemp wasn’t being recruited, Hudson Catholic head coach Alberto Vasquez, himself an NCAA Division I player at Rutgers, called the process “amazing. I don’t know what else the kid had to do to prove himself.”
But there is a happy ending to the story.
After a highly successful summer baseball schedule, Kemp slowly started to get noticed and the offers trickled in.
And once one school offered, then the word was out. Kemp was certainly for real.
Last week, Kemp made it official when he signed his national letter of intent to attend Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y. beginning next September.
Kemp did so in the school’s audio visual studio, where the letter signing was broadcast on the web.
Needless to say, Kemp was a happy young man, with his mother, Roseanne, and father, Jim, Sr. on hand for the proud moment.
“I always knew good things would come,” Kemp said. “I just had to find the right place. I was patient and waited it out. That’s all that matters.”
Kemp said that he felt at home at Iona from the outset.
“When I went to visit the school, I don’t know how to explain it, but it gave me a feeling of being home,” Kemp said. “I knew it was right.”
Kemp said that he’s comfortable with the coaching staff at Iona. Paul Panik is in his second season at Iona and was quick to make Kemp the offer right away.
“He’s a young coach who is going to do a lot of good things there,” Kemp said. “There’s a family environment at the school.”
Kemp is pretty sure that the Gaels will utilize him mostly as a first baseman, but Kemp can also play third base in a pinch as well as pitch.
“We’ll see,” Kemp said about his position status. “I was recruited as both a pitcher and a hitter. I’ll play anywhere that they put me.”
Kemp said that he plans on majoring in criminal justice, computer science or business at Iona.
Vasquez said that he was a proud head coach.
“This is what I do it for,” Vasquez said. “This is what it’s all about.”
Last year, the Hudson Catholic program sent Tino Salgado, the other part of the Hudson Reporter Co-Player of the Year honors, to Division I baseball. Salgado, the fiery infielder for the Hawks and two-time Reporter Player of the Year, signed last year with the University of Rhode Island and will play his first season with the Rams this spring.
So two D-I products in two years. Not bad for Vasquez’s program.
“I am surprised it took so long,” Vasquez said about Kemp’s recruitment. “It finally picked up late in the summer. This is a solid opportunity for him. It’s a great school. He can just concentrate on playing baseball for us now. He’ll be fine. I think other people are starting to recognize that.”
Hudson Catholic Principal and President Richard Garabell said that Kemp is a great student.
“He was on First Honors last period,” Garabell said. “That’s the most important thing. Plus, he’s a great kid.”
Kemp said that he would like to play right away for the Gaels. He does not want to sit out a season as a redshirt.
“I want to be able to play,” Kemp said. “Now, with this done, I can look to help my team this season. I think we’re going to do some great things this year. And I don’t have to worry about who’s watching me. There’s a lot of stress off my shoulders. This was the end goal of being in high school. I always wanted to play college baseball and now I will.”
And now, the Hawks’ opponents in the spring have to worry about feeling the wrath of Kemp’s mighty swing…
The Great Hagueini made his return last week with the turban, magic wand and crystal ball, but Hagueini dropped the lantern when he picked the Immaculata-Hudson Catholic game one week early. Both teams received a bye last week, so the pick remains the same this week.
So remember, don’t use these selections for any monetary wagering, unless it’s for a roast beef and mozzarella sandwich on a crispy bread with your Uncle Looie.
Immaculata (4-5) at Hudson Catholic (3-6): Even with the 3-6 record, the Hawks qualify and get a home game, the lone home game in Hudson County this weekend. The Hawks are battle tested and had some tough losses early. They recover here. Hudson Catholic 20, Immaculata 12.
Notre Dame (10-0) at St. Peter’s Prep (8-1): The Marauders got a week off at the right time after falling hard to St. Joseph’s of Montvale, 24-6, two weeks ago. And what do the Marauders get as a reward? They get to face an undefeated Fighting Irish team that blew out Trenton Central two weeks ago and upset Delbarton, 34-31, last week. The week off should help Tajhamell Bullock, Paul Lefkowitz, Jelani Mason and the rest of the Marauders’ offense that sputtered against St. Joe’s. St. Peter’s Prep 35, Notre Dame 14.
Hagueini was 3-1 with his selections last week, falling short with his pick of Hoboken, which lost in totally heartbreaking fashion, 15-14, to New Milford, last week…
Congrats to Josh Beteta for being named the new head baseball coach at Ferris High School. Beteta has been a hard-working coach for many years in Hudson County and will inherit a Bulldog team that has several excellent returning players like Jafari Williams and Denny Furcal, although rumor has it that another standout Bulldog player has transferred to another Hudson County school. That will be a major loss to Beteta before he has his first practice…
And congrats to Weehawken native Sal Mendez, who was selected as the South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Year for the Down East Wood Ducks (Texas Rangers’ Class A affiliate). Mendez posted a 7-2 record with a 2.37 ERA, helping the Wood Ducks capture their league championship. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com