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.

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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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4 Ways Technology Is Changing Baseball

In this day and age it is impossible to imagine a life without smartphones. They follow us everywhere and enable us to track and measure just about any activity we can imagine.

Around 50 million people used mobile apps to track their fitness activity, some as stand-alone apps, but others connect to wearables that saw a 32 percent increase in sales in the last year. More than 77 percent of these wearables were health and fitness trackers and this can only mean that technology is changing the way we look and participate in sports. We are obviously very much interested in tracking ourselves during sports and in our everyday life. We are becoming a society obsessed with quantification.

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The same technology that is affecting your everyday life is also persistently entering the field of professional sport. Pro sport is all about success and when you introduce technology to the equation, the story doesn’t change. You’re simply seeking a better way to win. Here are the 4 ways technology has influenced America’s favorite pastime – baseball.

Technology is changing how ball players practice.

The quickest way for players in any sport to improve is by watching themselves perform, and building on what’s right or wrong. Ubersense, Coach’s Eye, SKLZ Cam, Sports Camera Analysis or iAnalyze are all apps that enable the coaches and players do just that. With Hudl, coaches can also give their team full access to video analysis tools from any computer or mobile device.

Major League Baseball recently came up with the MLB.com Digital Academy, which is an interactive instructional platform that brings professional-level pitch and swing analysis, tips and resources to youth players, coaches, parents and leagues. Through this service one can compare his delivery or his swing to the best MLB players.

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Not only that, brain science researchers are also trying to enhance player performance by getting into the head of athletes. This was enabled by the advancement of technologies such as eye tracking technologyelectroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). It should be noted that vision training, while promising and still developing, is not new to the MLB. Many baseball players, such as Carlos Beltran and Hunter Pence, have been using vision training for years to help them improve their abilities to pick up pitches easier and make better contact with the ball.

DeCervo, a tech startup, is using a combination of neural mapping and pitch simulations to understand the quick decisions of major league batters. There are two possible applications for teams to use their technology, first as a form of scouting.  A team will be able to see which players are capable of quickly and accurately choosing the pitch type and pick the players who show the best ability to do this. Another application would be as a supplemental training tool.  If a team finds a player that displays the best ability to see a pitch, the teams can try to identify what that player is seeing and then try to replicate it with other players. The researchers at the Columbia University have even started a Kickstarter campaign, through which they want to provide public with the app for measuring ordinary people’s reaction time and decision making.

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Whether you’re a parent, Little Leaguer, or advanced player – you can learn tips and drills in a new fast-paced, easy to follow format of the app called Baseball Gameplan. Through this app you can identify your needs, follow the drills and watch your hitting, pitching, fielding, catching and overall game performance improve. In a similar manner, GOsports is the first mobile youth sports coaching curriculum & team communications tool.

If you are looking for an immediate feedback, you might want to use a solution like HitTrax – a baseball simulator that brings innovation to the baseball industry by measuring real-time data and displaying live results for immediate feedback. In a similar manner, SmartKage is an invisible technology that defines athletic performance by capturing up to 75 metrics for baseball and softball players. SmartKage measure player’s skills in pitching, hitting, throwing, catching, strength, running and agility. By determining player’s exact strengths and weaknesses, he can understand his potential, play smarter and compare his skills to other players on his team, facility, or across the nation.

When it comes to perfecting your baseball swing, Zepp Baseball technology or Diamond Kinetics might be the right startups for you since they are both developing hardware and software solutions to analyze the swings of baseball and softball players. You might also want to try the Axe Bat with an asymmetrically designed handle to give the player added benefits such as performance grip, more efficient power transfer and reduced risk of injury.

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People are also innovating the ways you meet the coach to help you improve your game. An online platform CoachUp is a service that connects connects more than 100,000 athletes with more than 13,000 private coaches for one-on-one and small group training to help those looking to develop skills and reach their goals.

And not only players, also coaches can benefit from technology. To give you an example – TeamSnap is the No. 1 online sports team management application for coaches, managers and organizers to save time organizing their teams and groups. GameChanger mobile app and website also provide scorekeeping, stats and team management for the coaching staff. So coaches can finally put their pencils down.

Sport Ngin is a powerful platform intended for managing the entire sports organization. Through the platform, one can access millions of photos, videos, comments, stats and live scores from one’s smartphone.

Umpires are also not excluded from the technology benefits. Umpire Live goes beyond the common umpire’s clicker by allowing the umpire to broadcast the data being entered. Baseball, softball and kickball umpires can use the app to enter balls, strikes, outs, base runners, keep score and manage a game clock. Players and spectators can use Umpire Live to see real time game information for as many as five games simultaneously. Umpire Live is great for fields where no scoreboard is available, or for budget constrained leagues wanting to reduce expenses. It is great for tournaments and is an excellent way for leagues to report game scores.

Technology is changing how ball games are being played

The most obvious way in which the technology is affecting how ball games are being played is the newcomer to the diamond arena – the somewhat controversial pitch clock or the pace-of-play rules, as MLB calls it. Pitchers in the upper levels of minor league baseball are subject to new rules in 2015 in an effort to speed up the pace of play. According to the “pitch clock rule” the pitchers must begin windup or begin motion within 20 seconds or an automatic ball will be called, per new minor-league rules at AAA-AA. MLB instead introduced a series of less radical changes in an effort to stymie the escalating length of games.

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On a strategic level, reports have been made that an unnamed MLB team recently purchased a Cray supercomputer with the intention of being able to analyze large volumes of information in a very short amount of time. Specifically, the supercomputer will allow the team to process information during a game quickly enough that they will be able to use the information to influence strategy during the same game.

New safety measures are also entering the game due to some serious head injuries. For the past few years, Major League Baseball has been studying whether pitchers should wear an elastomer-Kevlar Unequal Technologies liner in their caps as protection from batted balls or wooden shards from a shattered bat. Kevlar is a woven synthetic fiber that is renowned for its light weight and tensile strength. The material is commonly used in bullet-proof vests. New York Yankees’ Hector Noesi and Esmil Rogers along with four other pitchers in the MLB had used its Kevlar padding insert in their caps during this season. While pitchers are free to wear protective headgear of their choice, as long as it doesn’t give them a competitive advantage and it doesn’t interfere with the MLB licensing agreements, the Kevlar padding hasn’t been officially approved by the MLB yet.

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The days of paper scoresheets are over. Apps like iScore, Scorefinger, or PenScore help coaches, parents and fans keep track of the games. SingleScore is a fun and unique way to keep score at the ballpark. The SingleScore box and App replace the bulky gray scoreboxes with an easy to use App and gives you the ability to move around as you score. Not only that, game data can be shared with Event-Cast webcasts to give remote viewers updated game status as it happens.

Not only that – apps like Score More Baseball allow amateur, recreational, or youth baseball teams to apply the same “Moneyball” optimizations as the professionals. After just three games, there’s enough data for the app to start optimizing their lineup. With the same players and same number of hits, Score More Baseball creates the batting order that helps their team enjoy longer rallies, strand fewer runners, and ultimately, score more runs.

Technology is changing how ball players are being recruited.

Technology is also changing the way athletes are being recruited. Social networks for baseball recruiting and scouting BeRecruitedFieldLevel, RecruitU, ViewRecruit or ReelRecruits are such examples. A player can get discovered by coaches by simply creating an online athletic profile, where he can showcase his ability by adding stats, videos, and more.

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On the other hand, coaches and scouts can use revolutionary mobile, cloud-based player assessment solutions such as SportsBoard, iProScout Baseball or iRecruit. Not only that, now general managers of professional sports organizations have the option and the ability to preselect the candidates for their roster based on brain science experimental research – this new scouting method even got a name, namely “neuroscouting”.

Technology is changing the fan experience.

To its credit, baseball has invested heavily in new technology to make the game available on a variety of platforms. MLB AtBat is the leading mobile sports app on both iPhone and Android, and MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM), baseball’s digital arm, is a world leader in the streaming of sports programming — not just its own programming but also programming for third-party clients like ESPN and the NCAA. The latest MLB.com Ballpark application sldo allows users to personalize their game experience.

One thing that has changed the fan experience in the last decades the most was probably the development of social media. This gives the fans the opportunity to look into the locker rooms of their favorite teams and see the human side of their idols. Some baseball teams have gotten very good at communicating with their fans through social media. Also advertising became very much digital – at the new Marlins stadium, for instance, every sign is digital, giving sponsors the opportunity to buy every ad in the place for a brief period and allowing concession stand specials to be promoted all over the park.

The teams have already made a big leap forward with the implementation of beacons in their stadiums to give fans personalized experience such as getting upgrades of their seats, special discounts or just knowing where they can buy a great burger. And if you want to imagine how the stadiums of the future will look like, read the article on how smart, digital stadiums are changing the way we watch sport or an article on the 14 possible stadium innovations for the future.

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Ever since the first televised MLB game in 1939 we’ve been used to watching our favorite team from the comfort of our own home and seeing every single detail and every statistic. Sportvision’s Baseball product suite provides the most influential and talked about data in the market. With technology like the ever popular PITCHf/x® system that illustrates the flight of the ball, and the Emmy-Award winning K-Zone™ system that makes the strike zone seem tangible, Sportvision continues to influence the way people view and analyze the game.

But this year MLB has started using Statcast to track new metrics, such as the speed of a player stealing a base, how hard a ball is hit, spin rate of a pitch and more. Though the novelty has not been well accepted by all fans, the analysts say it has the potential to change they view certain players.

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There are also apps like Trade Rumors that provide fans with the latest rumors in baseball among other sports and with GameChanger live stats and play-by-play streaming parents and fans will never miss another game.

A novelty you might find surprising is that just recently, Twitter started selling sports tickets in tweets, starting with NBA but probably also expanding to MLB later on. Two live-streaming apps, Meerkat and Periscope, could also change the way we watch sports, although the NBA, NFL, and MLB currently have policies that restrict both reporters and fans from live-streaming game action.

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Scoutee merges technology with tradition

We’re all excited about the future integrations of sports and technology. Scoutee will add to these developments by introducing a solution that will transform the way ball players train and get noticed.

Technology can be of great help to the athletes. However, one thing is sure – the athletes will still have to do their magic no matter how good technology might get. That is until we stay out of the cyborg age.


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Pitchers, kings of baseball

Pitching is 75% of baseball. 

Connie Mack

You need nine guys to form a baseball team.

But let’s face it – there is a “king” among those nine guys, whose role in winning or losing a game is much bigger than the role of the rest of the eight guys combined. This guy is called a pitcher.

Pitching is what the game is all about. Pitching IS the game. 

Bob Welch

Symbolically enough, a pitcher has his own hill on the baseball field with his own little fortress – a pitching rubber. He is literally a king of the hill as he controls the development and the pace of each game from up there.

Pitching is #1. If your pitcher pitches a shut-out you can’t lose!

Al Campanis

Typically, an active (25-man) Major League team roster will consist of five starting pitchers, seven relief pitchers, two catchers, six infielders, and five outfielders.

By doing some basic maths, we quickly come to a conclusion that pitchers represent just under half (12/25) of the typical Major League team.

A few decades ago a study was performed to ascertain whether today’s baseball experts still believe pitching is the most important ingredient in winning baseball and how they compare it with batting, fielding, and other factors. Of the 50 baseball experts completing the questionnaire, 44 ranked pitching the most important factor in winning baseball.

This is even more so for the left-handed pitchers.

Baseball scouts repeatedly say that while a RHP has to give you a reason to like him, a LHP has to give you a reason not to like him.

More recent authors, who take into account also the psychological factors that might influence the performance of a pitcher, speak more of the importance of the relationship between the pitcher and “his” catcher, a duel that is called the “battery” in the baseball jargon. We’ve all seen how effective a working battery can be in this year’s World Series.

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With all the above said, it does not come as a surprise that the highest-paid player in the Majors is … well, a pitcher. The 25-year-old, two-time Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw, recently agreed to the largest contract for a pitcher in baseball history to the tune of seven years, $215 million.

The 5 MLB’s highest-paid pitchers (Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, C.C. Sabathia and Zack Greinke) will earn the staggering $878 million over a period of seven years. To prove our point, half of the 10 highest-paid athletes in baseball are pitchers.

So, make sure that when your kid asks you for a piece of advice on which position should he play, you will make the right call.

And remember, it’s never too early to enter the Big Leagues! 😉