Dodgers News: Clayton Kershaw Opens Up On Friendship With Sandy Koufax At Dodger Stadium Statue Ceremony

Clayton Kershaw has drawn endless comparisons to Sandy Koufax since being selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the seventh overall pick in the 2006 MLB Draft. The two left-handers have since been intertwined and were in the spotlight on Saturday.

Kershaw was among those on hand to celebrate Koufax during a ceremony to unveil his statue in the center field plaza of Dodger Stadium. Dodgers broadcaster Charley Steiner was emcee of the event, which featured team owner Mark Walter and MLB special assistant Joe Torre as guest speakers as well.

“I’ve got to follow Joe. That should go well,” Kershaw quipped as he stood on the dais. “It really is such an honor for me to get to speak today. Sandy and Jane have meant so much to my family throughout the years, so to have the opportunity to get to do this is really special.”

In addition to being revered as Dodgers left-handed pitchers, Kershaw and Koufax are alike in that they prefer the spotlight shine elsewhere. Mindful of that, Kershaw said his speech would be short. “I promise,” he added.

Kershaw went on to wax poetic about Koufax’s accomplishments on and off the field, and he also allowed a glimpse into the bond the Dodgers icons share.

“There have been so many incredible pitchers in the Dodgers’ storied history, and you hear about them a lot. But Sandy stood out. He always did,” Kershaw said.

“I remember one of the first times I got to sit down and speak with Sandy, it was on a flight to L.A. for Joe’s charity event. I was sitting there with Sandy, Joe and some old ballplayers, and thought I was going to have to sit through, ‘Back when we played,’ or ‘This is how I used to do it.’ I thought I was going to sit through that for the whole flight, but it was a far cry from that.

“I got to know Sandy on that flight and after that night I remember thinking, ‘Wow, Sandy genuinely cares about how I’m going to do in this game.’ And from then on, I was able to talk to Sandy. He would call me when good things happened to congratulate me. He would call me when bad things happened to encourage me, and he’d even call me during the offseason just to check in on Ellen and I to see how the chaos of our life was going with our kids. Sandy, one day I hope I can impact someone the way you’ve championed me; left-handed pitcher or not, just in life.

“And a couple days ago I called a mutual friend just to see what I should say and what I should talk about up here. Sandy happened to be there with him at the time and he took the phone and said, ‘I heard you’ve been struggling with your breaking ball. Let me help you.’ And you told me to stay tall. That was it. It was simple, it was helpful, and it was also caring and genuine.

“Those are the qualities I admire most. In the years of generations to come, I hope a kid sees the statue and asks his mom or dad about Sandy Koufax. And I hope that they tell him he was a great pitcher, but more than that he was a great man who represented the Dodgers with humility, kindness, passion and class.”

Kershaw: Koufax the ‘best’

As part of expressing his admiration, Kershaw made it clear where he believes Koufax resides in MLB and Dodgers franchise history.

“For every rookie who sees the statue for the first time and asks, ‘Was he any good?’ I hope the veterans tell him simply, ‘He was the best to ever do it,'” Kershaw said.

“For me, I was looking back on the time we were at Vin’s retirement ceremony on the field, and something he said about Vin stuck with me. He said, ‘The thing you treasure most about Vin is that he allows you to call him a friend.’

“And that’s the same for me. I’m grateful to have Sandy. I know you don’t believe it, but there’s no one more deserving than you of this honor. Congratulations.”

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