Who is Clayton Kershaw?

“The day after Clayton starts a game, long before the gates open and fans enter the stadium, he’s already at work preparing for the next start. The fact that he’s out there, ready to go the day, after isn’t unique–most starting pitchers have a routine between starts. Weight lifting, conditioning and a throwing schedule are the norm. In fact, because most starters strictly follow this routine, they are considered stubborn, detailed and even superstitious. The ones who take it to the extreme are called crazy. Clayton is down-right insane.” (A.J. Ellis in Arise: Live Out Your Faith and Dreams on Whatever Field You Find Yourself)

Clayton Kershaw is one of the baseball’s greatest stars. His career earned run average (ERA) is the lowest among starters in the live-ball era with a minimum of 1,000 innings pitched. He is also a three-time Cy Young Award winner and the 2014 National League Most Valuable Player. He became the first pitcher in history to lead MLB in ERA for four consecutive years when he did so in the 2011 through 2014 seasons. Back in 2013 he was was the fastest Dodger to 1000 strikeouts, while earlier this season he became the second-youngest active player to reach 100 wins at 27 years, 57 days old. Just days ago, Kershaw became only the third Dodgers pitcher to make five consecutive All-Star games – the others were Sandy Koufax and Fernando Valenzuela. Even in a downseason when compared only to his phenomenal track record, Clayton Kershaw is still undisputedly regarded as one of baseball’s elite hurlers.

Clayton Kershaw. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Clayton Kershaw. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Clayton Edward Kershaw was born on March 19, 1988, in Dallas, Texas, and lived in nearby Highland Park. When Clayton and his best buddy, Matthew Stafford were 12, Matthew’s dad, John, coached them in baseball. Kershaw had pinpoint control and a filthy changeup. When Kershaw pitched and Stafford caught, they formed a potent combination.

Claytonk Kershaw and Matthew Stafford when they were kids.

Clayton Kershaw and Matthew Stafford when they were kids.

As a child, Clayton played team sports such as baseball and soccer at the Highland Park High School, which had one of the most successful sports programs in Texas – they won state titles in tennis, swimming and many other sports. Football was the top sport at the school, however. In 2003, Clayton played center on Highland Park’s freshman football team and Stafford was the quarterback. Kershaw and Stafford were teammates often and sometimes rivals in soccer, football, baseball and basketball. When they got bored of real sports, they made up their own games. At Kershaw’s house, they played hallway hockey, the rare game they played inside. It involved sawed-off hockey sticks, a roller hockey ball, pillows for their knees and chest, and a line of tape strung the width of the hall to mark off the goal. After freshman year, Clayton quit the football team, and Matthew stopped playing baseball after his sophomore season.

Kershaw as a young football player.

Clayton worked hard to become a better pitcher after he stopped playing football. He began lifting weights. “By the end of his junior year, you could tell he was special,” said Lew Kennedy, Kershaw’s varsity baseball coach. “People were taking notice by then. There were a lot of radar guns in the stands.” By his senior year, Clayton’s body was full of muscle and by his senior season he became the best player on the Highland Park baseball team. He also grew to six feet three inches tall. Outside of team practice, he trained with Skip Johnson, who was a baseball coach at nearby Navarro College at the time. He and Clayton practiced pitching together once a week for almost three months. “That was actually the first real pitching lesson I ever had,” Clayton said. Working with Coach Johnson paid off. Clayton’s pitches were faster than ever. In a game against Northwest High School in May 2006, he struck out all 15 batters he faced.

As a senior, Clayton had a perfect record of 13 wins and zero losses for Highland Park. He struck out 139 batters in 64 innings. His earned run average (ERA) was an incredible 0.77. In their story on Clayton, Baseball America called him “the top high school prospect” in the country, so he drew the attention of scouts from all around the country and many colleges offered him scholarships. However, in June 2006, MLB held its annual draft, where the Los Angeles Dodgers chose Clayton with the seventh overall pick. Kershaw was the first high school player chosen in that year’s draft.

The young pitcher had a tough decision to make. He could take one of the scholarships and go to college. Or he could start playing professional baseball right away. Clayton’s first college choice was Texas A&M University. His girlfriend, Ellen, was set to attend the school that fall. But Clayton couldn’t pass up the chance to get paid to play baseball. He decided not to go to college.

Clayton Kershaw 2006

Clayton Kershaw as a rookie.

In 2008, the Dodgers assigned Clayton to Jacksonville again. But he didn’t stay with the team for long. After pitching in 13 games for the Suns, the Dodgers called Clayton to the major leagues. Clayton’s first MLB game was on May 25, 2008 in Los Angeles against the St. Louis Cardinals. He allowed two runs in six innings, struck out seven batters and gave up only five hits. The Dodgers won the game, 4–3. Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt was impressed with Clayton. “He’s just a great kid, willing to learn,” Honeycutt said. “He’s the whole package.” Clayton pitched in 22 games for the Dodgers in 2008. But his 4.26 ERA for the season showed that he still had some learning to do.

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Clayton Kershaw and Los Angeles Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.

In 2009, he pitched for Los Angeles all season. His 2.79 ERA was eighth best in MLB. He struck out 185 batters in 171 innings. The next season, Clayton had the league’s 12th best ERA at 2.91. After just two MLB seasons, Clayton had become one of the game’s best pitchers. During his first spring training with the club, legendary Dodgers announcer Vin Scully called his devastating curveball, “Public Enemy No. 1” and he quickly began drawing comparisons to another legendary Dodger lefty, Sandy Koufax.

In December 2010, Clayton and longtime-girlfriend Ellen got married. The two began planning a trip to Zambia in Africa. One month after their wedding, Ellen and Clayton travelled to Zambia, which really had a big effect on Clayton. It was there where he decided he wants to do something good for this world besides baseball. Clayton has also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and two years later, the Kershaws built a home for children without parents in Zambia. It was his humanitarianism that won him the Roberto Clemente Award, which is a annual award that MLB gives to a player who helps others outside of baseball.

Clayton and Ellen with kids in Zambia.

Clayton and his wife Ellen with kids in Zambia.

The 2011 season was Clayton’s finest yet. He won 21 games and lost only five. His 2.28 ERA led all major-league pitchers. Clayton earned the 2011 Cy Young Award as the best pitcher in MLB’s National League (NL). In 2012, Clayton’s ERA of 2.53 was tops in MLB for the second year in a row.

Clayton as the 2011 Cy Young Award winner.

Clayton as the 2011 Cy Young Award winner.

In 2013, Clayton posted an incredible 1.83 ERA over 236 innings. He was awarded the Cy Young for the second time. The Dodgers finished the season in first place in their division by a whopping 11 games. But Los Angeles lost to the Cardinals in the playoffs.

In October 2014, the Dodgers finished in first place in the NL West. Clayton reached the top of his game, leading MLB in ERA and wins. On June 18, 2014, Kershaw threw a no-hitter and struck out 15 batters in one of the most dominant performances in baseball history. That game came in the midst of a stretch in which he threw 41 scoreless innings, the sixth longest in baseball’s expansion era.

Kershaw celebrating one of the most dominant performances in baseball history. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

“He’s the best pitcher on the planet right now,” Dodgers catcher A. J. Ellis said. “There’s nobody even close.” Kershaw was awarded the Cy Young for the third time in 2014, as well as named the National League Most Valuable Player. He extended his contract with the LA Dodgers organization in January 2014 – he will receive $215m over a seven-years span, which makes him the first MLB player with an average salary over $30 million. Kershaw’s contract is the richest deal for a pitcher in baseball history and his average annual salary of $30.7 million is the largest for any player. This year he will make about $909,000 for each start.

Clayton's 2014 season in numbers.

Clayton’s 2014 season in numbers.

Although the first two months of his 2015 season were less-than-stellar, his statistics improved later on and he still leads the major leagues with 160 strikeouts this season. Clayton Kershaw threw his first shutout of the year against the Phillies a week ago, his first of the year, striking out 13 and walking none.

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Catcher A. J. Ellis congratulates Kershaw after his first shutout of the 2015 season.

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw has been one of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) best pitchers since he joined the league in 2008. Clayton’s powerful left arm brought him to the top of the baseball world. His hard work and dedication have helped keep him there. But it is his passion that has made him a star on and off the baseball field.

Adapted by Jon M. Fishman book (by Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., 2015)


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We are all 42

Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal. 

George Will

Jackie Robinson was only a ball player. True. But he was also so much more to so many people.

A rebel. A hero. A messiah. You can call him whatever you want, but one thing is certain – he was one of the leading figures in changing the course of (American) history. Had it not been for him and club president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Wesley Branch Rickey a.k.a. Mahatma, we might not be able to fully enjoy the genius talents of Frank Thomas,  Derek Jeter, Ernie Banks, Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Hank Aaron, Josh Gibson, Bob Gibson, Lee Smith and many more. We would probably not even see players of other-than-white skin colour enter the Major League, which would certainly be a pity.

Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31, 1919. He was the youngest of five children. His grandfather had been a slave. Jacke’s dad was a farmer in Georgia. He left the family when Jackie was young. Later the family moved to California. Jackie’s mother, Mallie Robinson, cleaned houses. Jackie was a star athlete throughout his school days. In high school, he played baseball, football, basketball, and track. He was usually the best on every team. Jackie won a scholarship to the University of California at Los Angeles. He became the first student ever at UCLA to win varsity letters in four sports.

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Baseball was one of the first institutions in postwar America to become desegregated. Baseball was America’s national game, and like America itself, it preached that it was a melting pot where everyone, regardless of identity or origin, could succeed, provided they had the talent or determination. The nation’s mainstream sportswriters perpetuated this myth, and baseball fans accepted it, not knowing or not caring that talented black ballplayers played in the shadows of white baseball, barred from the game because of an insidious “gentlemen’s agreement” that had excluded blacks since the 1880s.

Baseball in postwar America needed someone like Branch Rickey, the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team. Rickey recalled the humiliation of one of his own black players from 35 years ago and decided he would tear down the color line in baseball. Rickey was determined to hire a black player for the Dodgers. He knew he had to find an excellent ballplayer with unimpeachable morals and a respectable background who could be tough enough to bear all kinds of abuse and strong enough to resist the urge to react to it. Rickey’s plan was called “the Noble Experiment.” Many in Major League Baseball believed it would not work. But Rickey thought it was the right thing to do. He knew that black players would help win games. Rickey’s scouts began watching Negro League games looking  for that perfect black baseball player to break into the all-white major leagues. At that time Jackie Robinson played with the Kansas City Monarchs and Rickey’s scouts spotted him and were impressed with his performance. When they contacted him, Jackie believed he was being considered for the Brooklyn Brown Dodgers, a Negro team. This was not the case.

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No moment in baseball history is more important than the April day in 1947 when Jackie Robinson stepped onto Ebbets Field, making a historic entrance into Major League Baseball as the first African-American player in the history of the game. His outstanding debut season netted him the inaugural Rookie of the Year award, which now bares his name, and spring-boarded him to a stellar 10-season career in which he was part of six Brooklyn Dodger pennant-winners, among them the World Championship club of 1955. In 1949, the six-time all-star won the National League batting title (.342) en route to earning MVP honors. Robinson, a first baseman as a rookie, starred as a second baseman for the next five seasons, before moving on to play third base and the outfield. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.

Impressive as his athletic achievements were, what Jackie Robinson accomplished as a man was far more important. The road to Robinson’s appearance at Ebebets Field on April 15, 1947, was a long, often crooked, and dark one. At a time when black players were banned from Major League Baseball, he had the courage and dignity to be the first to endure the withering barrage of racism and rejection without responding in kind. Throughout his entire career, Robinson coped with the racial insults and abuse with tact and good humor. But keeping all his frustration inside was hard. He often couldn’t sleep or eat. The fans marveled at Robinson’s self control. Jackie credited his wife Rachel for keeping him focused and calm during the most difficult first season. When many young athletes allow fame to go to their heads, Robinson kept his principles. He refused alcohol and tobacco. When attractive girls approached him, he told them he had vowed to be faithful all his life to his wife. Robinson had become a much-admired role model for young Americans, especially blacks. In a 1947 contest, Jackie Robinson was named the second most admired man in America, only surpassed in popularity by the singer Bing Crosby.

Jackie Robsinson

Later in his life Jackie Robinson became more active in civil rights work. He became a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

If you have not yet seen the movie on Jackie Robinson’s story, now is the perfect time to do so.

Today MLB is pervaded with different nationalities. However, we are unfortunately witnessing a decline in interest of African-Americans in playing baseball during the last few decades. This can be linked directly to partial baseball college scholarships comparing to full ones for basketball or football.

We at Scoutee believe in the power of talent and that no talent should go to waste. Today you have millions of players from poor countries where they have little opportunity to showcase their talent. We want to change that by empowering aspiring baseball players from anywhere in the world to achieve their full potential.

42 is not just a number. It represents humbleness, human dignity, perseverance, faith and courage. It represents the guts not to fight back even when the world turns against you. The number 42 is the only number retired by all of baseball. The next time you see a number 42, you should really bow to everything it stands for. Had we all been at least a little bit of 42, the world would have been a better place.

Thank you, Jackie, for showing us the way!

Long live the 42!

References:


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United colors of baseball

For starting pitchers we have two Dominicans, one Italian, one Mexican and one Japanese. In the bullpen we have a Venezuelan, a Mexican, a guy from the United States and a guy from St. Louis.

Tommy Lasorda

The main baseball league – Major League Baseball in the United States of America – is pervaded with different nationalities. Since the 19th Century, Major League Baseball has enjoyed a rich, diverse, world-wide set of talent not seen in any other major league sport. According to Baseball Almanac every state in the United States of America, and more than forty-five countries, have had at least one player make it to the show.

According to the latest data, the 224 players or 26.3 percent of all MLB players were born outside the U.S. They represent 16 countries and territories outside the U.S., the highest total since 16 countries were also represented in 2008.

The Dominican Republic again leads the Major Leagues with 83 players born outside the United States. Venezuela ranks second with 59 players, marking its fourth-highest total of all-time. Cuba places third with 19 players, setting a new all-time high and surpassing last year’s record-high of 15. Rounding out the totals are Puerto Rico (11); Canada (10); Japan (9), Mexico (9); Curaçao (5, surpassing its previous high of four set in 2009 and 2012); Colombia (4, matching its previous high set last year); Panama (4); Nicaragua (3, matching its previous high set in 2012); Australia (2); South Korea (2); Taiwan (2); Aruba (1); and Brazil (1).

According to Wikipedia, the list of current Major League Baseball players by nationality includes even more, namely 19 countries.

However, probably the most interesting data on this is the data from UX.Blog, which adopts the proportional point of view, taking into account the MLB’ers Per Million of the country population. According to this data, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Aruba and Puerto Rico are undisputed winners, with Curaçao boasting with as many as 46.49 MLB’ers Per Million people.

It’s been 67 years since Wesley Branch Rickey and Jackie “42” Robinson introduced color to the MLB. Thanks to that great day of April 15, 1947, we can now talk about the United Colors and more importantly United Talents of Baseball.

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