The late Kobe Bryant may have left this earth on January 26, 2020, but his influence on the world continues to live ever so powerfully. Bryant recognized the importance of the fans more than most, and he is forever a legend in the city of Los Angeles and to players who represent LA, as well.
During Sunday's Dodgers at Reds game, Reds rookie TJ Friedl smoked his first major league hit, a home run off Dodgers pitcher Tony Gonsolin. Mookie Betts, the Dodgers right fielder said he recognized this immediately, and got the attention of the fan who caught the ball, and asked for it. The fan did not think twice or ask for anything, but Betts made the marvelous gesture of bringing that fan a signed bat anyway. Here is the entire interaction and Betts' thoughts via Dodgers Nation video.
After the game, Betts explained his motives and how Bryant influenced him.
"Those interactions are kind of everlasting. One of the last times I spoke to Kobe (Bryant) he just reminded me by the time the game is over, leave somebody (happy), somebody knows who you are, somebody recognizes you. I wasn’t really doing it for cameras or anything. I was just doing it because (the fan) immediately threw the ball back and didn’t even ask for anything."
This experience will forever be monumental for that Reds fan, as he now has a signed Betts bat that he can hang in his house forever. It also meant a ton to rookie Friedl, who already had one of the best days of his life by getting his first major league hit. Friedl can now tell his kids and grandkids that on the day he got his first major league home run, (Mookie) Betts was the one who was able to retrieve the ball for him.
This further illustrates the fortune that the fans of Los Angeles teams have. Betts' contract runs through 2033, so he will be a Dodger likely for the rest of his career. (Kobe) Bryant's influence on sports and Los Angeles still influences the current LA superstars, and will likely never dissipate. Kobe Bryant lives forever.