Dodgers’ Kemp makes cancer-stricken fan’s day

Matt Kemp became an Internet sensation after an impromptu

gesture he made toward a cancer-stricken Dodgers fan attending a

game at San Francisco’s AT&T Park.

The Dodgers’ Gold Glove center fielder was informed of the

disabled fan’s plight by third base coach Tim Wallach during a 4-3

loss to the Giants on Sunday. After the game, Kemp went to the

other side of the field with Wallach and met the fan and his

father, who were sitting in the front row adjacent to the third

base dugout.

”Wally told me that there was a big Dodger fan at the game and

that he didn’t have a long time to live – not longer than a month

and a half,” Kemp said during a hastily-arranged press conference

in the Dodgers’ dugout before Tuesday night’s game against

Arizona.

”So after the game, I just decided to go meet him. He couldn’t

talk because I guess his speech was gone. When I said `Hi’ to him,

he just looked at me in shock. It almost got me.”

The fan, whose name is Josh, appeared to be a teenager and was

dressed in a hooded Dodgers sweatshirt. Kemp shook hands with him,

autographed a ball and handed him his cap.

”I didn’t know that anybody was filming it. I wasn’t aware,”

Kemp said. ”I woke up this morning and my phone’s ringing, and I’m

saying: `What did I do now? What happened now? I hope nothing bad

happened.”’

The video, which can be seen on YouTube, also shows Kemp pulling

his jersey over his head and handing it to Josh – along with his

shoes – while his friend Tommy was recording it on his

cellphone.

”I didn’t plan on taking my jersey off. It was just something I

felt that probably would have cheered him up a little bit and

helped his situation,” Kemp said. ”It was the first time I ever

took my shoes off on a field. That was the first time that Giants

fans were ever nice to me.

”I mean, we’d just gotten swept by the Giants, but that was

something I felt I needed to do, and I’m glad I got to do that,”

Kemp added. ”Hopefully, that made the kid’s day. I don’t even know

his name. God willing, a miracle happens and he lives for a while.

But his father told Wally that he didn’t have much time left on

this Earth.”

An incident that occurred when Kemp was 12 years old helped

contribute to his positive attitude toward fans – particularly

those who are experiencing hardships.

”One of my favorite basketball players – I’m not going to say

who it is – kind of played me,” Kemp recalled. ”I asked him for

his autograph and he said he was busy. As a kid, you always

remember those things and it kind of sticks with you. So as much as

I can sign, I try. I know fans get mad when I tell them I have to

do something at that moment. But I try to do as much as I

can.”

Kemp’s recollection was similar to something that happened to

former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, who was rebuffed by one of

his favorite players when he was growing up. As fate would have it,

he later faced that same player in a game and hit him with a

pitch.

”I don’t think some athletes understand what they can do with a

simple gesture and how big it is, just shaking a kid’s hand or

saying `Hi’ to him. It can make a fan’s day – or a fan’s life,”

Kemp said.

”I get really emotional, especially with kids, because they

can’t control anything that’s going on. You can’t control these

diseases like cancer and other things that are going on. Some of

these kids get their childhoods taken away from them, and they’re

unaware of anything other than just living life. So if there’s a

way that I can make any kid in that situation happy, then I’m going

to continue to do what I can.”

That attitude was reinforced recently when Kemp learned his

cousin had died.

”Life is so much bigger than baseball,” the two-time All-Star

said. ”I mean, you can sit here and think about going 0 for 4 with

four Ks and you get mad, and you can complain about the stupidest

things sometimes. But things like this humble you and keep you

grounded and let you know that somebody’s life is way worse than

whatever it is you’ve got going on.

”That makes you a stronger person and makes you grateful for

everything that you have.”