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Like it or not, Kershaw is about living by the book

July 18, 2012|T.J. SIMERS
  • Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw looks on after batting practice at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw looks on after batting practice at Dodger… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Easily offended readers take note, because this isn't going to go well for everyone.

I already know I should probably apologize before applying a sense of humor while mentioning Kershaw the kid, wives and Jesus.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, July 19, 2012 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 44 words Type of Material: Correction
Clayton Kershaw: In a column by T.J. Simers in the July 18 Sports section, the date of a fundraising barbecue and concert hosted by Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw was reported as Aug. 3. The date of the event at Dodger Stadium is Aug. 2.

But if he wants to be accepted for who he is, and I'm talking Clayton Kershaw here, then being me, I'm going to want to know why anyone should read a book written by a blessed 24-year-old kid who really hasn't lived yet?

As it is, I'm thinking a book that begins with a foreword written by A.J. Ellis isn't going to have much of a shelf life, but then that's just me trying to crack funny.

When I first noticed Kershaw's book, "Arise," in the airport and its obvious Christian overtones, I guffawed. As many of you already know, I guffaw a lot and not just at things with Christian overtones.

But let me just take a strong stand here and say I'm all for orphans and what Kershaw might do for them in Africa.

I'm just a little more interested in whether Kershaw can get the next batter out and go on to be this generation's Koufax.

Yet I asked the author what he would like folks to take away from this written epistle.

"I would hope they would kind of feel a calling," Kershaw said. "I don't know why I get to play baseball. I just think God gave me the ability; I didn't do anything to deserve it.

"My favorite Bible verse -- sorry," he said, "is whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if you're working for the Lord and not for men. So I work to be the very best."

Jaded as I am, and rolling my eyes more than once when hearing a player credit Jesus with a victory and noting no one ever suggests He loses as well, I read the book.

Then I sat down Tuesday in the Dodgers' dugout with Kershaw and learned a few things about what makes someone special at age 24.

First of all, he thinks he's funny. Married his wife, Ellen, because she found his "lame jokes,"' as he admits, hilarious. Go online and check out his "Between Two Palm Trees" bits on YouTube with Ellis and you will understand why he works so hard to keep his day job.

He wears No. 22 because his favorite player, first baseman Will Clark, wore No. 22, and if they would let him, he says, Kershaw would still be playing first base.

Kershaw can't hit, which is why they don't let him play first base, but hitting is his favorite thing in baseball.

As a young nervous Dodger he began his career by mistakenly pulling on Jason Schmidt's jersey. Schmidt put on Kershaw's jersey, the two players took the field, and it was probably the highlight of Schmidt's career as a Dodger.

It's all there in the book, making it a good read. The mush is there as well, Kershaw falling for Ellen when they were 14, taking a leadership class after school just so he could be by her.

"You can't teach leadership," he said with a laugh, but a guy has to do what a guy has to do.

Ellen watched Oprah's visit to Africa; she was inspired. Ellen developed a passion for Africa, so Kershaw did as well. Who hasn't been there?

"It's her thing," he said until he went to Africa and was hugged by a child who wouldn't let go. "They are so attention-deprived, it's like they all are just standing there with their arms outstretched hoping to be picked up."

They fell for Hope, an HIV-positive child who is now being fed and cared for on their dime. The Zambia orphanage they raised money to build is almost finished and will become Hope's home.

Kershaw donates $100 every time he strikes out someone; too bad he doesn't pitch against the Dodgers. He's also raising money for charities in Los Angeles and Dallas.

As part of "Kershaw's Challenge," he's inviting fans to a Texas barbecue at Dodger Stadium on Aug. 3 featuring country artist Pat Green to raise more funds for kids in need.

"We want a generation of young people to arise -- to hope and believe that their lives are full of purpose," wrote Kershaw in his book.

But not everyone is blessed with an incredible left arm while pulling down millions. "It says in Matthew everybody is given one special gift, passion, talent, whatever it might be," Kershaw said. "It's up to you what you do with it."

I have no idea why he was grinning when he mentioned that to Page 2.

Kershaw used his talent to win the Cy Young, the world his, but when reminded he has everything, he said, "Is that it?

"I never want to make it sound like I take this for granted. I know it's a blessing to be here. But I don't think you're defined by what you do. I feel so small in accordance with the rest of the world.

"What's my place? What am I really here to do? Obviously, for me it is faith-related."

At the mention of faith, while some will nod in agreement, it's going to rub some the wrong way when attaching it to sports.

"I don't mind rubbing people the wrong way," Kershaw said. "I think you have to be bold about that. I definitely want people to know what I stand for, but at the same time don't want to get up on a podium and [preach]. I want to show it by the way I live."

A dinner with John Wooden confirmed what Kershaw already held to be true, Wooden telling him faith was No. 1 in his life. He then wrote Wooden was the wisest man he ever heard speak.

"You know not everybody cares about baseball," Kershaw said. "I hope baseball is a part of my legacy, but just a small part."

Just as Wooden lived.

Thank heavens I read the book and we had the chance to chat.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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