Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw (second from left) is flanked by Commissioner… (Patrick Semansky / Associated…)
DETROIT — — Clayton Kershaw was presented Sunday with the Roberto Clemente Award, the top humanitarian honor bestowed by Major League Baseball.
Kershaw, 24, the Dodgers' ace and the defending National League Cy Young Award winner, has worked with community organizations in Los Angeles and in his hometown of Dallas. However, he and his wife, Ellen, have focused on building an orphanage in Zambia.
Kershaw is the youngest winner of an award that has been presented since 1971, with recipients including Willie Mays, Cal Ripken Jr., Dave Winfield and 11 other Hall of Fame members.
"It's players like you that make me very proud to be the commissioner," said Bud Selig, who presented Kershaw with the award at a news conference before Game 4 of the World Series.
The Kershaws leave Dec. 31 for their third annual visit to Zambia. The orphanage that was in its planning stages last winter has been completed, with government clearance pending for the first 10 children to move into what will be called Hope's House.
Kershaw said the orphanage will be run by Zambians, with the hope of raising children until age 18, then providing assistance with education and employment.
The orphanage will not have a washer or dryer, he said, because most Zambians have neither appliance. The goal is to raise healthy and productive citizens there, he said, rather than bring the children to the United States.
"If their basic needs are met over there and they don't know what they're missing in America, I think that's the way you want it," Kershaw said.
"Over here, we try and attain more and more stuff, and that's how we try to maintain our fulfillment and our joy. Over there, they don't have that same greed and that same want. That's almost a blessing."
Kershaw spent the afternoon at Ford Field, watching high school teammate and quarterback Matthew Stafford lead the Detroit Lions to victory. The Dodgers star then spent the evening watching the San Francisco Giants try to clinch their second World Series championship in three years.
"They're winning the World Series. We're not even in the playoffs yet," Kershaw said. "We have to focus on getting in the playoffs."
In an era in which teams are starved for pitching, Detroit's Justin Verlander wonders why they do not let their best pitchers, you know, pitch.
The Washington Nationals won their first division title, yet this season will be forever remembered as the one in which the Nationals shut down ace Stephen Strasburg before the playoffs.
The parallel is not exact — the Nationals wanted to protect Strasburg in his first season after elbow surgery — but the point is that teams could be hurting rather than helping themselves by shackling young arms to pitch counts.
Verlander, the defending American League Cy Young winner, has thrown more than 120 pitches at least 10 times in each of the last four seasons.
"I think maybe teams can learn from what I've done here," Verlander said. "You can't stamp every individual and say you need to get him out of there at 105 or this many pitches. Everybody is different in this game.
"Some guys do fatigue at 90 to 100 pitches. Some guys don't. How do you know who the guys are that don't if you never let them get past that?"