It was already an abnormal summer for Newton County Academy graduate Kemp Alderman, and then the car wreck happened.
Alderman was riding in his brother Ty’s truck three weeks ago when a wreck left his right foot injured. Fortunately, only Alderman’s toes were affected, but with him getting set to report to Ole Miss the following week, Alderman knew his baseball workouts in Oxford would be affected.
After his senior season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Alderman switched focus to Ole Miss, with whom he signed to play baseball last November. He’s been working out and practicing on his own the past several months trying to stay in shape, and after the wreck happened, Alderman said he was grateful it didn’t interfere with his baseball workouts too much.
“My foot’s almost healed; I can do everything but run,” Alderman said. “It was pretty scary, but I’m just glad everyone was all right. Me and my brother are blessed that God was watching out for us because the truck was messed up pretty badly.”
His father, Kelly Alderman, said the initial phone call was scary, and he’s just relieved it wasn’t worse.
“That’s not a phone call a parent wants to get at 11 o’clock at night,” Kelly Alderman said. “All I know is to put it in the hands of God and hope for the best.”
Since he was 10, Kemp Alderman played travel baseball during the summer, but now he’s in Oxford taking an online class and working out with his Ole Miss teammates. It feels odd not playing in games since before spring break in March, but Kemp Alderman said he wouldn’t have done travel ball this summer even if there wasn’t a pandemic.
“The last three summers I’ve probably played 100 games each summer,” he said. “The only thing different is that I haven’t been playing in games, and the coaches usually don’t want you to play in a league going into your freshman year. They want you to go to summer school. It’s basically been the same other than the wreck and the two weeks I had to take off.”
Kelly Alderman said he was impressed with how much his son dedicated himself to staying fit during the shutdowns.
“Before he was in this wreck he was probably in the best shape of his life as far as running, throwing and hitting,” he explained. “He worked out four to five days a week. He didn’t stop what he was doing. I think he got better even though he wasn’t getting to play. It would have been easy for him to just stop and not do anything. I think Ole Miss sent him a workout plan in the mail, and he got up every morning and would go run and lift and hit, then he’d hit again every night.”
Now that he’s had time to reflect, Kemp Alderman said after having his senior year at NCA canceled due to the coronavirus, he’s grateful to continue his baseball career beyond high school.
“It was disappointing because I felt like this year was going to be our year,” he said. “We had a good team. I was kind of bummed out at first, but I’m grateful that I’m still getting to play.”
Having grown up an Ole Miss fan, Kemp Alderman knew he would play for the Rebels if the opportunity presented itself. He was committed to Ole Miss for a couple of years before signing, but now that he’s had time to be on campus and work out with other Rebels players, the reality of fulfilling a dream is sinking in.
“After that first day I was like, ‘Wow, this is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life,’” he said. “They were ranked No. 1 last year, and I’ve always been a huge Ole Miss fan. When you get here you’re like, ‘Wow, this is what it’s all about.’”
Kemp Alderman was able to visit his family this past weekend for the Fourth of July, but he had to rush back to Oxford to continue his college course.
“He came home and couldn’t wait to get back,” Kelly Alderman said. “He had to study for a test that was either Monday or (Tuesday).”
Only the team’s strength and conditioning coaches can work out with players right now, so many of the workouts are led by the older Ole Miss players. After his morning online class, Kemp Alderman and his teammates lift weights, run, hit and throw. He’ll finish the summer session at the end of July and is scheduled to report back Aug. 20. Hopefully, those plans will stay on track despite the continued presence of the coronavirus, Kemp Alderman said.
“Ole Miss has been doing a pretty good job with it,” he said. “We have our temperatures checked every day, and all of us have been tested and none of us have it. It’s up in the air, but I really feel like they’ll start up school (on time). There are a lot of guys here right now because most of the summer leagues got canceled, so most of them are here working out.”
While he’s no longer his son’s coach, that hasn’t stopped Kelly Alderman from giving his son advice heading into the next chapter of his life and baseball career.
“It’s been different because he’s always been my high school and travel ball coach,” Kemp Alderman said. “Basically he’s been telling me to work hard and keep my head on straight and not to get nervous and try to get better.”
Kelly Alderman said things will be different for him now that he’s no longer coaching any of his sons.
“Now I just have to find someone else to throw batting practice to,” he joked. That’s all I’ve done for 15 to 20 years. It is what it is.”