“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.”