In honor of Clayton Kershaw’s 24th birthday today, let us return to a time of innocence and wonder.
It has only been four years and 10 days since I posted a video of the first game Kershaw pitched in that was broadcast by Vin Scully. Wearing uniform No. 96, Kershaw dazzled our fair Vinny with a curveball that froze Sean Casey of the Boston Red Sox.
That video, to my astonishment, earned more than 750,000 hits on YouTube before copyright issues forced its removal. I still have the original copy on my computer, but as far as online goes, it’s harder and harder to find. But here, in not-so-pristine condition, is a link to that video.
That afternoon, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com published a feature on the not-quite-20-year-old Kershaw.
… the buzz Kershaw has created with his 97-mph fastball and jaw-dropping curveball already had teammates raving. Then Torre watched another inning and joined in Clayton-mania.
“That was pretty good, wasn’t it?” Torre asked, knowing the answer.
He said the Dodgers were “not really looking at that” when asked if Kershaw was competing for the fifth-starter spot, although Torre didn’t say no, either. He said the No. 1 priority is Kershaw’s “well-being,” but acknowledged that “you never know for sure the best way to proceed.”
Meaning, if a young player is special enough, there’s no such thing as rushing him. Torre even used the word “special” to describe Kershaw’s curveball. He talked about Kershaw facing “a pretty good part” of a World Series championship lineup with a two-pitch repertoire. While discussing a still-developing changeup Kershaw throws to right-handed hitters, Torre couldn’t help but draw a reference to the greatest Dodgers left-hander of them all who, coincidentally, spent part of this game in the clubhouse talking pitching with Scott Proctor.
“There was a left-handed pitcher in this organization with only a fastball and curve and he was pretty good,” said Torre. “But I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on him. He’s not too far away from the changeup. He’s got it; it’s a matter of locating it.”
Yes, Kershaw’s got it. He’s also got the clubhouse sensing that an impact player has arrived. Catcher Russell Martin has already said Kershaw throws the best curveball he’s caught.
“He’s really good, man,” said Martin.
Kershaw would give the Dodgers a left-hander in an otherwise all-right-handed starting rotation. It’s hard to find a current Dodgers player who watches Kershaw and doesn’t believe he’s ready for the Major Leagues.
“I wish you could see a video of what I saw from center field,” said Matt Kemp, who made his spring debut in center field Sunday. “He throws that curveball so hard and it snaps 12 to six like you’ve never seen.”…
To think he has fulfilled so many expectations so far. Amazing. Happy birthday, Clayton.