Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw’s return to the mound against the San Diego Padres on Friday (9/1) after being out with back strain since late July helped snap a 5-game losing streak as he struck out seven batters in six scoreless innings, allowing just two hits.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA, www.fca.org) took the occasion to showcase not only Kershaw’s good-news-story for Dodgers fans, but to also highlight how his faith in Jesus takes priority on and off the field.
“I think getting to play baseball and the blessing that it is to go play every day is a platform to incorporate yourself with a lot of other different people that think baseball’s cool and (are) fans of the game,” Kershaw said in an FCA video (below). “If you tell them that you’re a follower of Christ and a Christian, it can resonate with people a little bit more just because of the platform you have. So, for me, talking about it is one thing, but living it is the most important.”
Kershaw also told FCA that one of his favorite Bible verses is Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (NIV). That verse, he said, reminds him that no matter how the game goes—good or bad, win or loss—as long as he did his best for God, he has no regrets.
In a news release sent to TogetherLA.net, FCA reports that before cementing his place in Los Angeles through 2020, Kershaw started his stellar career at Highland Park High School in Dallas, where his faith in Christ grew. He began attending his high school’s FCA Huddle as a freshman and stayed actively involved all four years. Even now, he and his wife, Ellen, return to Highland Park each offseason to speak at the FCA Huddle there.
“In high school, everybody called themselves Christians, but FCA brought it to the forefront,” Kershaw told FCA for a magazine interview. “It really helped me grow and showed me that it’s a lifestyle. Jesus is your Savior, and you live for Him. Everything you do is for Him, and athletics are a part of that.”
After being drafted by the Dodgers in 2006, Kershaw made his MLB debut in L.A. on May 25, 2008, at just 20 years old—the youngest player in the majors that year and the fourth-youngest starting pitcher in Dodgers history. More than a decade later, Kershaw is among the great Dodger pitchers, but as Ellen says, Clayton is “the most humble person you’ll ever meet,” adding, “He realizes there’s more to life than baseball. With Clayton, he’s always had a greater perspective.”
For anyone else, that perspective may be hard to keep, especially the way Kershaw’s career has exploded. He was selected to every All-Star team since 2011, won the NL Cy Young Award in 2011, 2013 and 2014 and was named the NL TSN Pitcher of the Year three times. In 2014, Kershaw was the National League Most Valuable Player, and No. 22 has also been honored with the 2012 Roberto Clemente Award and the 2013 Branch Rickey Award; Rickey was one of the “Founding Fathers” of FCA.
Kershaw’s perspective in life took on a tangible shape when he joined Ellen on a trip to Zambia, Africa, in 2010. His wife had a heart for the region and the many needs of its people, but she tried to prepare her husband for the poverty of Zambia, where homes are spaces underneath battered plastic sheets and people subsist on less than a dollar per day, where two shirts are a luxury, running water doesn’t exist and raw sewage fills the streets, where 13.5 percent of all adults carry HIV or AIDS—the sixth-worst rate worldwide—and roughly half the population is age 16 or under because of the disease’s staggering death toll.
“The AIDS/HIV virus has pretty much knocked out an entire generation,” says Kershaw. “It’s kids raising kids or grandparents raising kids. It presents an overwhelming task because you can’t get to every kid.”
Moved by that trip, Clayton and Ellen started Kershaw’s Challenge in 2011, a Christ-centered, others-focused organization existing to encourage people to use whatever God-given passion or talent they have to make a difference and give back to people in need. The organization seeks to empower people to use their spheres of influence to positively impact communities and to expand God’s Kingdom, believing that God can transform at-risk children and neighborhoods through the benevolence and impact of others. For more about Kershaw’s Challenge, visit www.kershawschallenge.com.
“My legacy … I hope it’s more than baseball,” Kershaw told FCA. “I hope I have a lasting impact. At the same time, I hope I get to play baseball for a long time. I love it. I hope I get to do a ton of different things with that. But I hope it opens up a lot of different avenues that wouldn’t be easily accessible without baseball.”