Nine years ago in late May, 2008, I was about to embark on a new venture, switching gears and heading to a new job, ready to face the unknown. Many, many miles and a country away, Clayton Kershaw was also getting ready to change the world, preparing for his big league call-up to the Los Angeles Dodgers after less than one full season in the minors.
Nine years later, Clayton has achieved far greater heights in his career than I ever will in mine. (That may qualify as the biggest understatement I will ever put to paper). While we both have grown as people, weathered many changes in duties and culture and developed some strong relationships in the workplace during that time, I still aspire to win the lottery, run away and travel with Pantone 294 when I grow up. Kershaw, meanwhile, is already in the conversation for the best pitcher ever and is at the top of his game, living the glory days right before our eyes.
Twitter can be a wonderfully unifying experience as well as an often combative place – I swear I once saw two people arguing about whether the sky was blue – but if there is one singular thing that all true Dodgers fans around the globe can agree on, it is our shared love and admiration for Clayton Kershaw. When this piece was a series of random thoughts on paper and I couldn’t quite come up with the right way to tie everything together, I put out a poll during last weekend’s fun Saturday night victory against the Cubs.
Poll, #Dodgers fans: If you only had one word to describe Clayton Kershaw, what would it be?
— Gail Johnson (@GJOH29) May 28, 2017
Here are but some of the dozens of the wonderfully descriptive replies I received:
GOAT, class, deserving, dominant, remarkable, money, Kofaxesque, awesome, Messiah, ace, dominator, humble, Taylor-esque, magician, Koufax2, HOF, generational, decent, legendary, epic, executioner, verygood, perfect, unreal, untouchable, peerless, filthy, ruthless, intense, magnificent, determined, professional, rock, unstoppable, phenomenal, dominant, beast, Daddy, tenacious, pitcherific
A couple of witty fans also made the suggestion that the word “Kershaw” should be an adjective in and of itself, and that it could also be considered a verb. Both very good points, in my opinion. (Note to self – work with Dodgers Nation fan base to develop a full “Kershaw language” on the event of his 10-year anniversary)
I needed no reminder of his greatness, but receiving these quick and clever replies brought the term “Kershaw Era” back to the forefront of my mind, which is the here and now that we are all experiencing together as Dodgers fans.
I think most devoted fans can agree that there is a special blend of anticipation and excitement mixed with anxiety that fills the air on Kershaw Day. We share his disappointment if gives up a hit, or even worse, a walk. What if he only strikes out 5 batters? What if his career WHIP dips just above 1.000? Think about that. It is sometimes easy to forget how lucky we are to have problems like these as baseball fans.
He entered Sunday’s start against the Cubs with 1,990 strikeouts in his career. In one of those seasons, he struck out over 300 batters. With his insane ability to win games after Dodgers losses, and having never lost when handed a 4-run lead, he has brought countless Dodgers fans back from the brink of insanity time after time. His save in Game 5 of the 2016 NLDS will rank as one of the all-time heart-stopping moments of my baseball-watching career. Personally, I hope to never forget the intensity and the determined look in his eyes during his between innings march to the bullpen. In my opinion, the two outs he recorded in that 9th inning to clinch the NLDS define who he is as a Dodger.
His on-field mastery and talent aside, I honestly believe that he could lose 10 straight and I would still think he is one of the greatest human beings on the planet. I am hard pressed to find the right way to explain why this is, exactly. In the spring of 2014 when I was home recovering from illness and re-discovered my love of baseball through Dodgers baseball, there was something about Kershaw’s presence on and off the field that struck me. I grew up, and still am, an admirer of Tim Wallach, who happened to be a great player, but seemed to me to be an even better person. I wanted all good things for him because I value good character over anything else, and the same holds true for Clayton. It is partly because of Kershaw’s humanitarian efforts and his general goodness that make him so easy to root for, and why his victories are so special. I honestly don’t think many of us would care as much if the guy was an insufferable jerk or bad teammate. The fact that he is who he is makes him even more fun to cheer for and with.
Then there is off-the-field Clayton, both the playful teammate who blows gigantic gum bubbles and cheers on teammates from the dugout, and the devoted family man with a beautiful fellow humanitarian angel of a wife, with whom he is parents to two adorable children who travel with them everywhere. I do not profess to know the man personally, and never will, but I have seen enough to know that he is an outstanding human being, and we are quite frankly not worthy of his greatness. We are simply blessed to be alive during the Clayton Kershaw Era.
We never know how long we have with anyone, but the hard truth is that nothing lasts forever, and we can only make the best of the time we have now. Although I look forward to the day when all eyes will be on Clayton when his number 22 is retired, when he helps unveil Corey Seager’s number 5 on the ring of honor along with an aging Dave Roberts by his side, and speaks at Joe Davis’ retirement ceremony, there will inevitably come a day when he is no longer throwing pitches for this organization.
I, for one, hope those days are in the distant future, and plan on enjoying these days for as long as they last. Many times in our lives are forgettable and we want nothing else but to dust ourselves off, learn our lesson, and move on. But not now. In this Clayton Kershaw Era, all I want to do is “stay right here, ‘cause these are the good ol’ days”.
I think I speak for Dodgers fans everywhere when I say I can’t wait to see what’s next.