BURBANK — In the hour-plus he spent signing autographs and greeting fans, Matt Kemp didn’t stop smiling and laughing.
Although the Los Angeles Dodgers player had a rare off-day Thursday, Kemp, the team’s starting centerfielder, took time away from his day to give a little back to the people who support him and the team.
Kemp appeared at the personal appearance, not at Dodger Stadium or at a memorabilia show, but instead at the Bank of America branch at 142 E. Olive Ave.
Kemp made the effort to meet and greet every fan that came in front of him, and spent the session talking baseball and signing everything from baseballs and bats to photographs and jerseys.
“He just loves doing this with the fans,” said Dave Stewart, a former pitcher who spent 16 years in the major leagues and is now is an agent whose cliental includes Kemp. “This is right up his alley. He eats this stuff up. Young or old, he just likes interacting with the fans and giving back.”
Kemp, who is having a productive season, hitting .317 with 12 home runs and 24 runs batted in heading into Friday’s three-game series with the Florida Marlins, said he enjoys mingling with his fans.
“I really like interacting with people, especially the fans,” said Kemp, who is in his sixth season with the Dodgers. “They are what made me what I am, and if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in. So, I definitely have to give back to the fans and have a good time with them.”
Kemp’s appearance came about through a joint partnership between Bank of America, Major League Baseball and the Dodgers. To thank customers for their business in unexpected ways, Bank of America invited Kemp to surprise customers at select banking centers around the greater Los Angeles area Thursday.
“Bank of America is a big supporter of baseball and a big supporter of the Dodgers,” Kemp said. “They do a lot for the community and they really work well with Major League Baseball. I actually have an account with Bank of America, so I work with them, too.”
For the occasion, bank employees sported white T-shirts with the Dodgers’ logo.
“We were really excited about having him appear here,” said Arpik Lalabekyan, senior vice president of the Olive Avenue branch. “We really felt special that one of the best players on the Dodgers was going to be here. This is ¿something special for our customers.”
In addition to Kemp’s appearance locally, New York Yankees Nick Swisher, Boston Red Sox Clay Buchholz, Chicago Cub Ryan Dempster and San Francisco Giant Buster Posey made surprise visits at banking centers in their teams’ towns earlier this season.
Barry Simmons, a regional consumer executive for Bank of America, said the program of having major-leaguers drop in on various banks has been a huge success.
“I walked in today and talked to our customers and I said ‘When you came in the bank today I bet you didn’t expect to see Matt Kemp, did you?’ ” Simmons said. “Just to see the glow and excitement on their faces was awesome. It was a great experience and we’re just doing our part to give back to the customers, and to thank them.”
People doing their banking mingled with fans who found out that the Dodgers’ slugger would be in town making an appearance at the bank through social media sites and e-mails. From senior citizens to infants, fans posed for pictures and basked in the opportunity to meet a sports star in person.
One of those fans who enjoyed Thursday’s event was Norm Angelheart, who has been a Burbank resident since 1955.
“Longer than the Dodgers have been in Los Angeles,” he said.
Angelheart, a long-time Dodgers fan, said it was a thrill to meet Kemp.
“It was great that he was in my bank,” Angelheart said. “I’ve met some great Dodgers over the years, and it’s nice to be able to talk with them and shake their hands.”
Young Cho works at the Kabuki Japanese Restaurant in Burbank, just a few blocks away from the Bank of America branch. He said he heard from a co-worker that Kemp was going to make an appearance at the bank.
“I am a big, big Dodgers fan,” he said. “I just couldn’t believe that Matt Kemp was coming here to Burbank. He was very nice and I am just so happy to meet¿ him.”
During his appearance, Kemp also rewarded some lucky fans with tickets to Dodgers games, autographed baseballs and other items.
Another fan, Eduardo Rodriguez of Los Angeles, said he found out early Thursday morning that Kemp would be in Burbank.
“I was getting my hair cut near USC when I found out he was going to be here,” he said. “So, I had to rush over here as fast as I could to hopefully catch him…He was great.”