My thoughts this morning are full of the images from the tornado devastation in Oklahoma, including this video of a woman finding her dog alive that will sho nuff make you cry. It can be silly and myopic and downright stupid to try to relate everything that happens in life to sports, but in this case, a wearer of my beloved Dodger blue deserves a major shout-out.
Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, who is from Oklahoma City, tweeted last night that he will donate $1,000 for the home run he hit against the Brewers and for every HR he hits from now until the All-Star break to the victims. This comes on the heels of the viral video - which Kemp did not know was being shot - of the big leaguer giving the shirt off his back - plus his cap and his shoes - to a fan with terminal cancer.
Cynics will note the timing of Monday's announcement may well increase the votes for Kemp, hitting an anemic .267 with just two home runs, for July 13's All-Star Game at Citi Field. To which I say, good. True enough, the only Dodger worthy of All-Star votes based on play is starting pitcher and beacon of hope Clayton Kershaw, 5-2 with an MLB-best 1.35 ERA, without whom L.A. would have one win in May. But for a player who used to make headlines solely for dating Rihanna and for being less than a clubhouse leader, Kemp deserves a few votes for his progression as a human being, even if his play has regressed from the MVP award he should have won last season (cheaters don't actually win, they just file successful lawsuits, Ryan Braun).
I love baseball. This is no secret to anyone who knows me or reads this blog. I love it for a lot of reasons. I love it because, even though the team we were cheering for (I support the Phillies, my husband's team, when there's no Dodger conflict) lost to the second-worst team in baseball last night and we had to brave flooded Miami streets and a lightning-streaked monsoon to drive more than an hour home, a friend I haven't seen in a long time and I drank Blue Moon from a can (tough to get an orange in there) and sat a few rows from the Phillies' dugout, laughing and listening to 92-year-old manager Charlie Manuel exhort his team. I love it because even though the Web Gem-worthy, rally-killing catch was made by a Marlins outfielder, it was still a great catch. I love it because even though the one drunk fan who wouldn't sit down in front said a very not-nice thing to the lady in Phillies red asking him to do so, she just shook her head and smiled a very pretty smile and said, "They shouldn't have served him that beer."
And I love it because people like Matt Kemp play it. Sure, the game has produced its share of malcontents throughout the years, even a social pariah or two - Ty Cobb, Pete Rose, Barry Bonds spring to mind - but as a general rule, if you're the type of person who can stomach failing seven out of 10 times as a definition of success (and a .300 batting average), you're probably a decent human being. Baseball requires patience, an even-keel approach to the daily highs and lows of a 162-game season, an appreciation of the beauty in small things - a perfectly placed bunt, a walk after working a count from 0-2 to full, the infield shift that robs a pull hitter of a single up the middle. It produces, at least in my experience, people you'd be proud to call teammates, or brothers, or sons.
Matt Kemp, it is becoming increasingly clear, is one of those people. And so while I do hope his bat gets in gear, it's important that I take a minute to salute his heart.