Hours before making his All-Star debut as the NL's starting center fielder, Kemp took a peek around a crowded clubhouse in another attempt to make it all sink in. He admitted it likely wouldn't for a while, but added: "This is more than I dreamed of. I could really get used to this."
That's probably not such a bad idea for the 26-year-old, who has posted MVP-type numbers through the season's first half. While that has helped the outfielder move on past a disappointing 2010 campaign, it has also thrust Kemp into a group of young players who many expect to be All-Star regulars for years.
His first All-Star experience will be memorable for a plethora of reasons, led by his performance Tuesday night. Kemp was the first hitter of the night to reach base, drawing a two-out walk in the bottom of the first. He then dropped a single into left field in the fourth.
That put Kemp in ideal position to watch Prince Fielder follow with a three-run home run. Kemp flied out in his final at-bat before spending the last three innings watching from the NL dugout.
"I got to get in there and make some things happen," Kemp said. "I was able to get on the base for the big boy over here and he knocked me in. I got a run scored because of him."
Entering the game as a pinch-hitter, Ethier singled home Milwaukee's Rickie Weeks to increase the NL's lead to 4-1 in the fifth. It wasn't Ethier's first highlight at Chase Field -- he was in the ballpark 10 years ago when the D-backs claimed their lone World Series championship -- but it might well have leaped to the top.
"You dream of this when you're a kid," Ethier said. "For it to happen in my own hometown ... it's something special."
Ethier grew up just down the road from the Arizona ballpark, making this, his second All-Star selection, a particularly meaningful homecoming. That not only allowed for Ethier to sneak away for some home-cooking, but it meant that numerous friends and family members were able to share in the outfielder's experience this time around.
"The one last year was my first one and it felt great, but this one also is special because I'm at home and get to spend time with family," said Ethier, who did not make another plate appearance in the game as the DH. "You never get tired of coming here and representing your team."
Kershaw needed only eight pitches to retire the AL in order in the fifth, which he began with a strikeout of designated hitter Boston's David Ortiz. The 23-year-old followed by getting New York's Robinson Cano and Detroit's Alex Avila to ground out.
"I was trying to just throw as hard as I could and see what happened," Kershaw said. "It was a blast. I had such a great time."
He was replaced by Atlanta's Jair Jurrjens in the sixth but had the distinction of being the third NL starter to appear in the game. Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee were the only two that preceded him, leaving Kershaw a bit in awe of being included among such company.
"I don't know if I can ever think that I belong [with them]," Kershaw said. "But for this day and for this moment, it's pretty fun to be a part of. I didn't have any expectations, but it's been awesome."