“But that was the neat deal about it,” Wallach said. “He was standing there waiting for me.”
Kemp was waiting to cross the diamond to sign an autograph for a terminally ill Dodgers fan, waiting to summon the passion necessary to pass along the hope that he now found so precious. Kemp didn’t know the kid’s name. Kemp didn’t know anybody was watching. When he reached the figure in the hooded blue sweatshirt sitting motionless in the front row, he thought the encounter would be quick and forgettable. Then Kemp saw something. Maybe it was the kid’s lost stare. Maybe it was his painfully frozen limbs.
“I said hi to him, he just looked at me in kind of shock, and it almost got me,” Kemp said. “It almost got me.”
Oh, but it did get him. The moment stripped him of his self-pity, and then everything else started coming off. Kemp handed the kid the autographed ball. He handed him his cap. He tore off his dusty No. 27 jersey with the buttons still fastened and put it on the kid’s lap. Then he bent over and removed his shoes and handed them over to complete the grand slam. Watching it all, speechless, was the kid, Joshua Jones, a 19-year-old from Tracy, Calif., who is suffering from inoperable tumors in his spine and has been given 90 days to live.
“I was in shock,” Jones said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I was sitting there thinking, ‘I can’t believe he’s doing this.’”
Filming it all through his smartphone, creating a video that has created an Internet buzz, was his buddy Tommy Schultz.
“The shirt, the cap, wow. … Then he took off the cleats and I was blown away,” Schultz said.
Remembering it forever will be Joshua’s brother, Ryan, 20, who says Kemp dressed their entire family in wide-eyed amazement.
“I don’t think words can explain how great this was,” Ryan said. “If this is the last memory of his life, it was an incredible one.”
As for Kemp, well, he sort of shrugged. When asked about the incident before Tuesday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium, he said he still didn’t know the kid’s name and still had not seen the video.
“I didn’t plan on taking the jersey off, but it’s something I felt would probably cheer him up a little bit … and that was my first time taking my shoes off in front of the fans,” Kemp said with an embarrassed grin. “But life is so much bigger than baseball.”
I’ll be perfectly honest, not a lot gets to me emotionally. Not even trying to brag or act tough. Maybe its because I haven’t had to go through a lot of sad moments like deaths in the family or close ones, but watching this video gave me chills and started to bring tears to my eyes. Good thing it was only a minute long. Matt Kemp just sold me as an athlete and a person. He’s now my favorite baseball player, and its not even close. I have no problem cheering him on for the rest of his career. No matter where he plays. I’ll be a Mets fans and a Dodgers fan. Whatever.
Walking over, introducing himself and signing the baseball was awesome. No doubt that earns him quality points in anyone’s eyes. Especially after his team just got swept by the division rivals. But he one-upped that whole situation. He gave that young man the jersey off his back, the hat off his head and the shoes off his feet. Not because the kid asked for them. But because he felt like that was one thing he could do for the young man to brighten up his day and give him another happy experience to remember before the inevitable eventually happened. He just want Josh to truly enjoy himself. Sure, to a normal person receiving gifts like that is cool. They’re keepsakes, or for some scum they’re ebay sellers. But for a 19-year old struggling to life for the next 3 months, its a minute of his life that’ll he’ll be able to talk about an cherish for however long he gets to grace Earth with his loved ones.
Its simple moments like these make athletes truly stick out. I remember meeting an Reebok agent in Florida at the Give Kids The World Village and having him tell me he’d get me tickets to see a Giants game while I was having a conversation with Jesse Palmer. My dad took his name but we thought nothing of it. Well, he came through. He gave me his press box tickets and on-field passes to meet the New York Giants. On top of that, Jason Sehorn came out to grab me after the game and brought me into the locker room to check everything out. First thing when I walked in, Michael Strahan said what’s up to me as he was sitting on a table. I was speechless. Jason showed me every bit of the locker room, press conference room, and workout room, as well as signing multiple souvenirs. Its one of the best moments of my life and all it took was a little generosity from the Reebok agent, and about 15 minutes of Sehorn’s time. Its a moment I’ll never forget, as I’m sure Josh won’t forget his either.