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What makes Clayton Kershaw so special?

Nov 1, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw (22) pitches against Houston Astros starting pitcher Brad Peacock (41) in the fourth inning in game seven of the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Buckle up, people. Things are about to get sappy here at FanRag Sports. We write a lot of positive words about superstar baseball players on this website, but there are some stars fans just can’t get enough of. You know, the select few who are so good and so lovable that they’re virtual locks for the Hall of Fame before they even hit age 30.

Mike Trout. Buster Posey. Giancarlo Stanton (yes, he already has more than 250 homers at age 28 — he’s a lock).

On the pitching side, Clayton Kershaw.

We know the numbers: 2.36 career ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 144 wins at age 29. More than 2,000 strikeouts. 25 complete games, three Cy Young Awards, an MVP Award, one glorious no-hitter. And the most fantastic stat of them all: a career ERA that has tumbled every… single… season since he came into the league in 2008. That’s incredibly difficult to maintain, especially when the bar to pass is already below 2.50.

Kershaw pushed that streak to nine seasons in 2017. He’s well-known for his emotion on the mound and his willingness to pitch on short rest or in relief when the team needs him to advance in the playoffs. He got his first World Series win in Game 1 this year and has plans for many more on the National League-favorite Dodgers.

The ring hasn’t come yet, but it will. So will more Cy Young Awards and an eventual Hall of Fame plaque. But it isn’t just the athletic abilities that make Kershaw so special. He is beloved by Dodgers fans for his devotion to winning, dugout reactions during games, and character off the field.

You’ll rarely hear Kershaw break from the company line in interviews, even after a rough start or an elimination in the playoffs. While everyone likes it when a player truly speaks his mind, you have to admire how dedicated Kershaw has been to being humble, giving teammates credit and accepting responsibility for poor performances. It seems he really does believe that he can carry a team on his back for 162 games to a World Series title, and is genuinely upset anytime there’s a hitch in that plan.

Even when he wins awards, Kershaw is quick to remind reporters that the individual honors come secondary to the team goal of winning a title. On game days, he’s unapproachable, and his commitment to maintaining a consistent, difficult routine between starts is legendary. Teammates love him for it and opponents are punished because of it. Though players are generally paying attention to the action during a game they aren’t playing, Kershaw can barely give a dugout interview without cheering for his teammates, questioning umpires’ calls or narrating the game. He is a true lover and student of baseball, something every fan can connect with.

Lastly, Kershaw is well-respected around the league for his home life and philanthropic efforts. Together with his wife Ellen and their two daughters, the Kershaws spend a ton of family time in and around Dodger Stadium, and he speaks openly about how important it is to prioritize his family. Clayton and Ellen also started Kershaw’s Challenge in 2011, a mission to feed, heal and house African children in underserved communities — the project has since expanded to multiple countries, and is helped in part by the ever-popular Ping Pong 4 Purpose, held annually at Dodger Stadium.

It’s rare to find both world-class talent and top-notch character in athletes, but Kershaw fits the bill and then some. His performance on the field has made him a favorite in Los Angeles, where he will be looked upon fondly forever as the kid who surpassed Sandy Koufax. Yes, he will end his career as the most dominant pitcher in Dodger history, if not baseball history.

Add that to the intensity he brings to everything about his job, the obvious love he has for it, his willingness to chase victory, his ability to accept defeat humbly, and his gargantuan charitable efforts, and you have the makings of a special person.

There’s a reason everyone loves watching Clayton Kershaw play baseball. There are even more reasons why they love the man himself.

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