The Los Angeles Dodgers were among the countless organizations to pay their respect to Kobe Bryant last year when the L.A. Lakers legend, his daughter Gianna and seven others tragically passed away in a helicopter accident.
Mookie Betts was among the Dodgers particularly impacted, as he’d begun to develop a friendship with Bryant as fellow Body Armor athletes. Betts shared a celebratory video narrated by Bryant when the Dodgers won the 2020 World Series.
The five-time NBA champion was back in his mind during the sixth inning of the series finale at Great American Ball Park. Cincinnati Reds rookie TJ Friedl greeted Tony Gonsolin with a leadoff home run for his first career hit.
Not long after Friedl reached the dugout, the baseball had arrived for safekeeping. Cameras later caught Betts taking an autographed bat out to the Reds fan who caught Friedl’s homer and immediately threw it to the Dodgers’ right fielder when asked.
“I just asked him for the ball. It was kind of sign language. I said, ‘I’ll throw you another ball. That’s his first home run, so can you throw it back?’ He didn’t hesitate, threw it right back,” Betts explained.
“I was going to throw him a ball but I thought about giving him a bat instead so that maybe it would be something he remembers a little bit more.”
Part of the calculus to providing the fan with a bat was advice Bryant had once shared with Betts.
“Those type of interactions are kind of everlasting. I think one of the last times I talked to Kobe, he just reminded me that by the time the game is over, somebody knows who you are and somebody recognizes you,” he said.
“Obviously that’s through our play, but it’s another way for somebody to impact someone’s life. I wasn’t really doing it for cameras. I was just doing it because he easily threw the ball back and didn’t even ask for anything.”
Betts motivated by Bryant
Sunday’s thoughtful gesture was the latest instance in which Betts was inspired by Bryant.
Prior to the Dodgers winning the World Series last season, Betts shared that Bryant had once helped him through struggles and the advice received was something the 2018 American League MVP intended to always remain mindful of.
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