Pitcher- Los Angeles
Copywriter, B. Schumacher | Photographer, A. Stempniak
Under Armour Baseball
Greatness – One Start At A Time
For a player that was a phenom and drafted seventh overall right out of high school, Clayton Kershaw has never really paid much attention to the enormous expectations that his talent commands, even as he has become arguably the best pitcher in the majors at just 25 years of age.
“I just don’t worry about the expectations,” says Kershaw. “I want to pitch well and I think that’s where other people’s expectations are. I think it’s a good thing when people have expectations for you; that means you’re worth having expectations for.”
Whatever the expectations are, Kershaw has undoubtedly surpassed them. He has been consistently great the last few years, winning Cy Young Awards in 2011 and 2013, and finishing second in 2012. In 2011, he became the youngest pitcher in 26 years to win the Triple Crown for pitching by leading the National League in strikeouts, wins, and Earned Run Average (ERA). His 2.60 career ERA is the lowest since 1920 for pitchers who have pitched more than 1,000 innings. With all of this success, Kershaw doesn’t focus on the individual accolades.
“Individual awards are something you can look back on when you retire and feel a little sense of pride, but for now I’m just focused on helping my team win.”
And win he has.
For elite, once-in-a-generation-type players, we have come to expect a certain mentality and intensity. Although he is an incredible competitor, Kershaw has more of a laid back, one-day-at-a-time mentality. He’s not overly technical in his approach as you may expect an elite pitcher to be. He’s not focused on setting goals and breaking records. He just goes out to compete every day to give his team a chance to win, and lets the rest take care of itself.
“I just want to win every start. That’s my only goal. Hopefully that will transfer to winning in the postseason, but it’s too hard for me to think about the future so I just try to win every start.”
So, why is Kershaw so good? His win-each-day attitude seems to help keep him focused on the here and now, preventing his mind from exploring the fact that he is on pace to become one of the greats of all time. Proof of that can be gained by simply taking a look at his stats. Out of the 7,887 pitchers in the Majors since 1901, Kershaw is one of just under 10 percent that have pitched over 1,000 innings (reminder: he’s only 25 years old!). In all those innings, Kershaw is getting batters out more often than not. He is in the top 10 all-time for strikeouts per nine innings (9.2), behind Hall of Famers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Nolan Ryan. Regardless of who he’s pitching to, Kershaw is going to pitch his way, and it works.
“You have to go with your strengths. You can get overwhelmed if you see a guy that’s hitting everything and you think you can’t do anything to get him out. At the end of the day, I just say go get him out. It’s not the most technical approach, but it seems to help me not try to think as much.”
Now that he is one of the best pitchers in the game, it seems that injury is the only thing that could possibly stop Kershaw from becoming one of the greatest of all time. However, this is unlikely with the way he trains and takes care of his body.
When asked how he stays healthy throughout the long season, Kershaw jokes, “Lots of milk and cookies,” but then gets serious and says, “You have to understand your body especially as you get older. For me, I’m still young, so I don’t get that soreness as much, but I know going forward that the stuff I’m doing today is going to help later on. You have to try to get that soreness out of your elbow and shoulder as quickly as possible and the routine that I have really focuses on that.”
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