The Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Tebow and Jesus Christ
There is no mistaking the precocious maturity of Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw. Whether in his calm focus on the mound or in the clubhouse, he is beyond his 23 years. He appears remarkably centered and at peace with himself, recognizing where he is personally and professionally.
Kershaw is a devout Christian, though unlike Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, he is hardly in your face about it. Kershaw and Tebow are two highly famous young professional athletes who outwardly approach their strong faith in markedly different ways.
If there is a showy, look-at-me aspect to Tebow and his kneeling in prayer on the football field and near zeal off it, Kershaw is more understated in his approach, if no less sincere.
I’ve never heard him bring up God in postgame interviews or seen him point to the sky after a big strikeout. Yet, I still have a clear understanding of his commitment.
"I think everybody has different approaches to it," Kershaw said. "For me, everything I do has a purpose to it beyond what’s in this lifetime. At the same time, on the field I have a job to do and that’s what I’m focused on.
"I guess you could say I’m a little more understated than Tim is. Not to say either one is wrong, that’s just kind of my personality a little bit."
Indeed, even if it’s not exactly his way, Kershaw admires Tebow for using his high-profile platform to bring attention to his faith.
"I have a lot of respect for Tim," Kershaw said. "I don’t know him personally, but I think what he’s doing is special. I think what he’s trying to do should be recognized, in whatever way that you try to do it. He’s playing football but I think there’s more to it than that.
"He gets a lot of recognition, publicity for it good and bad. People have opinions about it because it’s not seen a whole lot. I think it does help to have other people in the athletic world that are doing that, and just try to follow their lead."
Kershaw has used his stage with the Dodgers and in winning last year’s National League Cy Young Award to promote his faith, but also to encourage others to make a difference. Particularly the young.
He and his wife, Ellen, recently returned from their second trip to Zambia, where in connection with the Arise Africa organization they are building a small orphanage. They wrote a book about their first experience there together -- Ellen had made previous trips -– and about pursuing dreams, whatever your age. "Arise" was released Tuesday. He and Ellen discussed the book Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
Kershaw recognizes his celebrity provides a doorway to an opportunity that goes beyond baseball.
"Look where we are now. We’re at Dodger Stadium talking about a book," he said. "There’s something to be said for that. I think that’s a platform for us. Ellen and I were talking about how awesome it is to have baseball for other things. That’s sort of the whole purpose."
More examples of his maturity.
In his first year being eligible for arbitration, he was asked whether he was trying to negotiate a long-term contract: "I don’t want to talk about that right now. I’m going to just see what happens. You never know."
On whether he was concerned about equaling his 2011 heights, when he won the NL pitching triple crown: "I’m not worried about individual stats or anything like that. Just win. That’s all you can focus on, that’s all that ever matters on the field. I lost five times last year. I hope not to lose that many times."
On the impressive list of would-be new team owners: "That’s good. I hope the new owner wants to win. That’s what’s important. Let’s see what happens."
-- Steve Dilbeck
Left photo: Tim Tebow. Credit: Jim Rogash / Getty Images
Right photo: Clayton Kershaw. Credit: Jeff Gross / Getty Images