Clayton Kershaw was born on March 19, 1988 in Dallas, Texas. He played many sports as a child, thriving in both football and baseball.
Kershaw starred as a multi-sport athlete for Highland Park High School, developing a friendship with Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.
By 2006, he was widely considered one of the best high school pitching prospects in the United States. Among his accomplishments on the diamond included throwing an all-strikeout, perfect game in the playoffs.
At the end of his senior season, Kershaw earned a plethora of accolades. He earned “High School Baseball of the Year honors” from USA Today and was also named Gatorade National Player of the Year for baseball.
Kershaw initially committed to Texas A&M for his collegiate career, but decided to immediately turn pro instead after being selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the seventh overall pick in the 2006 MLB Draft.
Minor League career
Kershaw’s first stop in the Minors took place with the Dodgers’ Rookie-level affiliate in 2006. In 10 games (eight starts), he compiled a dominant 2-0 record with a 1.95 ERA and 0.89 WHIP over 37 innings pitched.
Kershaw climbed up the Minor League ladder the following year, splitting time with Low-A Great Lakes and Double-A Jacksonville. Between the two affiliates, the left-hander went 8-7 with a 2.95 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 122 innings (25 starts).
Kershaw’s performance earned him spots on the East Team in the Midwest League All-Star Game and USA team in the All-Star Futures Game.
Kershaw returned to Double-A Jacksonville for the start of the 2008 season, to which he stayed for nearly two months before being promoted to the Majors. In two separate stints with the affiliate that year, he posted a 2-3 record, 1.91 ERA and 0.95 WHIP across 61.1 frames (13 games).
Kershaw made his highly anticipated MLB debut against the St. Louis Cardinals on May 25, 2008. He was tabbed with a no-decision, allowing two runs on five hits with seven strikeouts in six innings.
Kershaw earned his first MLB win on July 27, tossing six shutout innings with five strikeouts against the Washington Nationals. He finished the year on a good note and was included on the Dodgers’ National League Championship Series roster.
Kershaw allowed a run in two innings of work against the Philadelphia Phillies (two appearances). The Dodgers were eliminated in five games. Kershaw finished his 2018 campaign with a 5-5 record, 4.26 ERA, 4.08 FIP and 1.50 WHIP in 107.2 innings (22 games).
Kershaw was much improved in his sophomore campaign, going 8-8 with a 2.79 ERA, 3.08 FIP and 1.23 WHIP over 171 innings pitched. He led the league in hits per nine innings (6.3) and struck out an impressive 185 batters.
By the 2011 season, Kershaw looked to take the next step in his career. He was named the Dodgers’ Opening Day starter and showed that he belonged in the category as one of baseball’s best pitchers.
Kershaw led all of baseball in wins (21), ERA (2.28), WHIP (0.98) and strikeouts (248 strikeouts) en route to numerous accolades. He was selected to his first All-Star Game, earned Gold Glove honors and won his first of three NL Cy Young Award.
It was the start of one of those most dominant stretches for any starting pitcher in MLB history. From 2012-14, Kershaw led the sport in virtually every category while winning two additional Cy Young Awards.
His lone blemish during this stretch was an inconsistent showing in the postseason. He particularly struggled against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2014 NL Division Series, yielding 11 runs in 12.2 innings of work.
Kershaw continued terrorizing opposing batters during the 2015 season, striking out a career-best 301 batters in 232.2 innings. He was limited to just 21 starts the following year due to back trouble, which continued resurfacing in ensuing seasons.
Despite losing some of the invincibility he enjoyed earlier in his career, Kershaw was still effective and helped the Dodgers advance to back-to-back World Series from 2017-18.
A shoulder injury prevented Kershaw from making a ninth consecutive start on Opening Day for the Dodgers in 2019. He was able to bounce back and avoided landing back on the injured list for the rest of the season.
Even though his streak was snapped, Kershaw will look to start a new one after Dodgers manager Dave Roberts named him the club’s Opening Day starter in 2020.
In addition to all of his achievements on the field, Kershaw has done plenty of work off it as well. After visiting Zambia with his wife, Ellen, in 2011, Kershaw created the Hope’s Home foundation with a goal of building an orphanage in the country’s capital of Lusaka.
Then in 2012, Kershaw’s Challenge was formed to which the future Hall of Famer continued raising money for worthwhile causes.
Kershaw also supports other nonprofit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and the Peacock Foundation. Since 2013, Kershaw and his wife have annually hosted “Ping Pong 4 Purpose” charity tournaments at Dodger Stadium.