MIDWEST CITY — Shawna Aguilar couldn't believe that it took moving to Oklahoma from California to meet the Los Angeles Dodgers' best player.
But on Thursday afternoon at the Riverside Mobile Home Park, Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp was hugging and holding Aguilar's grandbaby while giving her and dozens of other kids who live there new coats for Christmas.
“Not many people here have coats, especially us coming from California,” Aguilar said. “These coats will help my kids and the neighbors around here too.”
Before distributing the new coats that he had bought for children in the mobile home park, Kemp visited the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma on Thursday where he packaged meals and made a $10,000 donation.
He also bought and distributed toys to 140 kids earlier in the day at the FaithWorks ministry.
“He is one of those people who never forgets who he is,” said Jim Tribble, youth minister at the First Baptist Church of Midwest City. “(Success) hasn't changed him any. He is still the same ole' Matt. He loves people and is quick to say hi to people and helps anyone who needs it.”
In November, Kemp signed an eight-year, $160-million contract with the Dodgers, the largest in club history. He is coming off a season where he hit .324 with 39 home runs, 40 stolen bases and 126 RBIs and challenged for the Triple Crown.
But Kemp hasn't forgotten his hometown of Midwest City. And that is what his father, Carl, who still lives there, is most proud of.
“One of things he said he wanted to do was to help people in need,” Carl Kemp said of his son. “He is a genuine kid, down to earth. He is humble. He finds a way to win everybody over.”
One of baseball's biggest stars enjoyed playing Santa Claus on Thursday.
“I am blessed to be in the position that I am,” Kemp said. “I am in a position to give. This is where I come from. This is the city that made me. It's just something that I wanted to do, to give back to where I came from.”
Kemp's charity is not going to stop when the holidays are over. He's pledged to make a $1,000 donation to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma for every home run he hits next season.
“Hopefully, I can hit 50 or 60 home runs and donate that money to a great cause,” he said.
Aguilar said her relatives in California “were going to be so jealous” when they found out that she had met Kemp. She was elated that her kids were getting new coats to wear this winter.
“He's an awesome guy,” she said after Kemp left her home. “That was really nice.”
Duana Newcomb, the mobile home park's manager, said many of the families who live there are struggling financially.
Before Kemp's visit, she had polled parents living in the park to find out how many children were needing a coat.
“I have 88 kids and 63 of them needed coats,” she said. “This has been an incredible blessing. We are getting socks and coats and a bunch of happy kids. He really was Santa Claus today.”