While some parts of the country are still covered in snow, the calendar has turned over another month. For some, the transition from February to March is meaningless. But in places like Port St. Lucie, Florida or Surprise, Arizona it is the time where fans of America’s most beloved pastime gather to pay homage to their teams. Spring Training means a clean slate, and the knowledge that in baseball hope truly does spring eternal.
Kids of all ages scan the pristine playing field in search of memorable players, hoping for some sort of sports memorabilia thrown their way, or perhaps an autograph. There is no denying the energy in a place like this. One such emerging star that is sure to have caught the eye of any marginal baseball fan is one Clayton Kershaw, the 23 years old southpaw flamethrower from Dallas who emerged as the best of the National League. He took home top honors as Cy Young winner while completing the Triple Crown of pitching. First in wins, strikeouts and ERA; a feat generally reserved for Cooperstown legends like Sandy Koufax, to which Kershaw will always be compared. He has escalated his game in such a short period of time, like few others in baseball history.
Kershaw’s mound acumen is obviously what has earned him top headlines, but it might just be his off the field habits, which deserve the most praise. Kershaw and his wife Ellen have just released their first book, entitled Arise, in reference to Arise Africa, a charitable organization built to assist the people of Africa and release them from the binds of poverty. The organization aids in a multitude of ways, including healthcare, business, education and discipleship.
The organization was something that Ellen coaxed her husband to get involved with and has now led to two separate trips to Zambia for the couple. His personal charity, “Kershaw’s Challenge”, for which he and his wife Ellen donate $100 for each strikeout to African-based charities, has also raised nearly half a million dollars. He is now dedicated to making an even more tangible difference with the recent groundbreaking of an orphanage that will be named “Hope’s Home” in Zambia.
As great as a baseball player as Kershaw has become, it is likely his off the field contributions that will be his most notable and leave the greatest impressions. He possesses qualities that we as a community desire. He has become the consummate role model, all before his 24th birthday. He is well grounded and his faith and reliance in God, which have guided him towards excellence on the field; but more importantly, in the lives of people who need an advocate. Be sure to check him out on opening day and at kershawschallenge.com.
Story by Ben Wilson