Kemmer's Calling Cards

Respectful Hard Worker Lets Play do the Talking

By Matt Rogers / Corpus Christi Hooks | August 25, 2015 9:48 AM

If Jon Kemmer could play right field in a hard hat with his lunch pail inside a nearby locker, he might just try it.

And if that locker could hold a rifle for some deer hunting at break time, all the better.

He's a polite Pennsylvania blue-collar kid who doesn't draw attention to himself.

"I don't want to be a loud mouth. I want to show up, work hard, and continue to never be complacent," Kemmer stated. "I don't care if I'm not on a top prospect list. I'm going to show up and do my job every day."

Care or not, Kemmer may, in fact, find himself on more Houston organizational top prospect lists this winter. The 24-year-old tops the Texas League with a .325 batting average and is tied with teammate Teoscar Hernandez for second in long balls (17). Kemmer's .578 slugging percentage paces that category, and he's second in on-base percentage at .423.

Though he was trending upward, it's been a breakout season for Kemmer, who entered 2015 as a .265 career hitter.

What's the difference?

"It's the extra hours I've put in before the games on and off the field," Kemmer explained. "My mental game has gotten so much stronger throughout the years of pro ball. When I struggled my first year, I had trouble relaxing the day after a bad game."

He conferred with a sports psychologist, who helped him clear his mind through visualization.

"I'm going to have quality at-bats and do what I can to help my team by being mentally strong and getting the right pitch to hit. It's so important to get into the game flow and use the right mental approach every day. It's more difficult when you play sparingly. It helps when you play every day."

Playing every day is a bonus. Getting to play the scheduled number of games when you grow up in Shippenville, Pa. (population 471; December-March annual snowfall 37 inches), is a pipe dream.

"We had a 20-game schedule in high school," Kemmer recalled. "My senior year we were 16-2, and that was the most games I ever played in my high school career. My junior year, we were 11-0 going into the playoffs."

Every year, he's reminded of baseball's incompatibility with cold weather.

"When I leave for spring training, there's still snow on the ground at home."

That reality drove him to the Sun Belt, and Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Ga., after two years at Allegheny College of Maryland (.445/7/74; .440/12/67) and a year at Division II Clarion University (.387/5/25) near Shippenville.

"My junior year I put up decent numbers, but I was never really around the scouts to get my name out there. I figured if I went down where the scouts could see me, I'd have a better chance," Kemmer reasoned. "The last game of my junior year at Clarion was snowed out. The weather in the south is a huge advantage."

NAIA Brewton-Parker was a good fit.

"I played for Boo Mullins at Brewton-Parker. He played in the big leagues with the Brewers and had connections with the scouts. There was much better competition in the NAIA, more talent, so more scouts on the NAIA circuit.

"Boo still had ties with the Brewers, had a good friend who was a scout with the Dodgers. Those were the two teams I talked to most before the draft that year (2013). I ran into an Astros scout when we played up in Atlanta, and he invited me to a combine. I had a good day of BP with Jeff Luhnow and Sig Mejdal there. It was a showcase kind of thing."

Houston selected Kemmer with the first pick of the 21st round.

It didn't hurt that he hit a team-best .366 for the Barons with 12 home runs, 13 doubles, and 41 RBIs over 45 games. Kemmer was a first-team NAIA All-American and Southern States Athletic Conference Player of the Year.

After signing, Kemmer batted .221/4/16 in 65 games at Tri-City in Short-Season A. Last summer, between Quad Cities and Lancaster, he posted .291/16/50, prompting the promotion to Corpus Christi.

There, his work ethic and easygoing nature have cast a crowd favorite. Each is rooted in his western Pennsylvania upbringing.

Jon's mom, Jackie, owns a dog kennel, and father Forest is retired from the Owens-Illinois glass plant. Forest and Jon's older brothers, Scott and Neal, taught Jon the ways of the outdoors.

"Shippenville is between Pittsburgh and Erie, about an hour and a half north of Pittsburgh and two and a half hours south of Erie. It's basically in the middle of nowhere. I love it," Kemmer said. "It's a big country life. The outdoors were a big part of my growing up experience. There was lots of hunting and lots of fishing. It's a mountainous area with lots of hills and woods. The Allegheny River runs through there; in Clarion they call it the Clarion River.

"I went to a small school, Clarion High. You know everybody from the seventh to the 12th grade, and everyone in the area knows you."

Though he fought for his baseball career, Kemmer loves football just as much. The former Clarion Bobcat running back, admitted blitz-happy middle linebacker, placekicker, and punter was a four-year varsity letterman in both sports.

"I was a big football guy. It was a toss-up between football and baseball, and if I was forced to choose, I'd say I love them equally.

"In the fall, Sunday TV is 100 percent pro football, and Saturday is all-day college football."

And then hunting. And more hunting. And sometimes, spotting at night.

"You eat what you hunt; you don't take it for granted," Kemmer said. "It's a huge part of my off-season nowadays, too. I hunt mostly white-tail deer. I miss turkey season in the spring because of baseball. I also hunt some pheasant and small game.

"My idea of a perfect day would be to wake up early and get to the deer stand right before light. Hunt until noon and then have lunch with my girlfriend, Lauren, and my family. Then go back to the deer stand until dark, and then go home and watch the Steelers win on Monday Night Football."

That's western Pennsylvania small-town life, where you work for what you net. Those values are valuable building blocks for Jon Kemmer in any season, any climate.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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