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Trio of Dodgers assists Habitat for Humanity

Trio of Dodgers assists Habitat for Humanity

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Trio of Dodgers assists Habitat for Humanity
LYNWOOD, Calif. -- Matt Kemp stepped out of his comfort zone a bit on Tuesday morning in Lynwood.

Instead of a batter's helmet, the Dodgers' All-Star center fielder donned a hard hat. In place of a bat, Kemp gripped a sledgehammer. And, instead of facing a Major League pitcher, he was staring down drywall in the garage of a Lynwood home in its first day of renovation as part of a Habitat for Humanity project.

So what's a tougher task for the Gold Glove winner, who leads the league in homers, runs, hits and RBIs: Hitting a big league fastball or knocking out a wall? Kemp barely hesitated.

"Construction's way harder working than I think baseball is," he said.

Kemp, Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw and righty reliever Josh Lindblom were on-site Tuesday to help start work on the dilapidated home in Lynwood. The project will take a couple of months, and when it's finished, the battered, graffiti-riddled property will have become two homes for Habitat-affiliated families.

"I didn't do too much construction as a kid, so I'm sitting here trying to learn some things at this moment," Kemp said. "But it's always fun to help and it's always fun to be around the fans and the volunteers and show appreciation for all the volunteers."

The Dodgers partnered with Habitat for Humanity as well as Bank of America to create the project. Also on-site working were former Dodgers star Maury Wills, Kershaw's wife, Ellen, and Lindblom's wife, Aurielle.

Lindblom recalled building a fence with his grandfather as a kid, but said he otherwise has very little construction experience. That wasn't about to stop the Dodgers reliever from taking part Tuesday.

"The city of L.A. does so much for us as a team that any time you're able to give back to the people in the community, you just show your support," Lindblom said.

Amanda Jordan was given the keys to a newly rehabilitated Habitat home two weeks ago. Along with her three kids, she moved from a three-bedroom house for 13 people into a three-bedroom house for her family of four.

Now that she is settled into her new home, Jordan said she wants to give back at every opportunity she has. So, naturally, she made sure she was on-hand for the beginning of the newest project in Lynwood.

"Tearing down walls, knocking down things, tearing the roof off, it's all very familiar right now," said Jordan, while taking a break from hammering. "It's wonderful. We have space. The kids have quality time. It's better than being in a three-bedroom with 13 people. It's a tremendous change."

She said she felt "honored" to be on site working with the Dodgers, and noted how hard Kershaw had worked all morning. Jordan's oldest son, Freddie, got the chance to meet Kemp, his favorite player, and complimented the center fielder on his shoes after thanking him for the work.

Kemp, however, said to redirect that thanks, given his subpar construction skills.

"I play baseball, that's my job," Kemp said. "I can fix little things, but the big stuff, I always have to call somebody to do. I'm not really that good at construction. There are some things I need to learn."

The head of the site, John Rosenthal, said he actually prefers working with the inexperienced, noting, "if you can swing a bat, you can swing a sledge."

"I love getting people who have never done any of this to do it for the first time," Rosenthal said. "They have a lot of fun with it."

A diehard fan who blogs about the team on his own website called Dodgers Diaries, Rosenthal was also the head of a site in February that a handful of Dodgers showed up to work. That's when he said he met his "new best friend," Jerry Hairston Jr., while putting in a window.

Rosenthal joined Habitat for Humanity in 2001, the Satuday after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He has been working on projects like the Lynwood home since, often partnering with Bank of America.

"It's so touching to see how this house and home ownership is really going to change their lives," said Garrett Gin, who heads the corporate responsibility team at Bank of America, which focuses on philanthropy and volunteering. "Then to see the players come out and the folks on the Dodgers come out and give back to the folks that cheer them on, it's just really great."

Both Bank of America and Habitat for Humanity have always had a strong partnership with the Dodgers and with each other, and Erin Rank, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity in the Greater Los Angeles area, said the idea for this particular site formed a couple of months ago.

It all came together Tuesday when the project began with some deconstruction work.

"I was impressed," Rank said. "They've got a game tonight and their arms are worth a little bit of money, I'm told."

With his work gloves still on, Kershaw took the podium to address his work team at the end of a busy morning.

"Hopefully we're not too sore tonight, but only Matt's got to play, so we're good," he joked. "We really appreciate this, it's been a lot of fun here."

For the red-hot Kemp, however, after swinging a sledgehammer on the site, swinging a bat on the diamond Tuesday night should seem like a breeze.

AJ Cassavell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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