It's been more than 25 years since the last time Jeff Kemper played baseball in the Central League.
A standout for powerhouse teams such as Mount Wolf and Dover over his close to 20-year career, Kemper hit nearly .300 while playing outstanding defense during his playing days.
Did Kemper consider himself a Hall of Fame player over that time?
When he received a text message from his old friend and current Manchester manager, Dave Miller, back in February, Kemper didn’t give it much thought.
“It was a Friday around 6:30 and I first thought it was just my buddy and Davey pulling a prank on me,” Kemper said. “But then he sent a second one and third one, and finally I thought they were taking it a little too far.”
Kemper gave Miller a call and got some unexpected news — he was one of four individuals voted in as part of the Class of 2017 that would be inducted in the Central League Hall of Fame.
“I was kind of surprised,” said Kemper, who was inducted along with Tim Thoman, Jon Benchich and Rex Meyer during a banquet on March 18. “I had been out of ball for like 25 years almost.”
Out of the area: Perhaps part of the reason that it took so long for Kemper to finally get his due was the fact that he had left the York area for much of that time.
“I just moved back into the area last March,” he said. “I was in Kentucky for about 10 years and then I was over in the Chambersburg area for the last 13 years."
So was it just a coincidence that he got the call shortly after moving back to the area?
Kemper left that answer to a higher power.
“I don’t know,” he said with a chuckle. “I guess that’s how God works sometimes. He’s waits until you’re available.”
Following in father's footsteps: Kemper’s induction meant a lot to him, and for more than just himself. His father, Ray, who died in 2004, was inducted into the league’s Hall of Fame back in the late 1990s. Kemper was living in Kentucky at the time and was unable to attend his father’s banquet.
“He was a scorekeeper and he always helped out with the Colonial Tournament,” Kemper said of the event now called the Tom Kerrigan Memorial Baseball Tournament. “Two of the things that I got when my father passed was the flag that was draped over his casket during his military funeral and his Hall of Fame plaque.”
Kemper plans to put his plaque next to his father’s in his office at home.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.