Friday, 13 September 2013

Clayton Kershaw, humanitarian

I digress. I will not only digress from being either an environmentalist or an economist, but I will give you a break from my dismal nature. This post is about my favorite baseball player on my favorite baseball team, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kershaw is not only having a remarkable (even for him) season, with his ERA at 1.92 more than a quarter of a point ahead of Jose Fernandez of Miami, he is receiving awful run support from his team (3.6 runs per start 68th out of 88 pitchers), something he has never complained about. He  seems to be embarking upon a string of success that has him being compared to Sandy Koufax during his unmatched six-year run. Taciturn Joe Torre glowed about Kershaw: "He's always learning something." Kerhsaw's perfectionism no doubt drives his success as well as his humility.

But Kershaw is not my favorite player because of the way he carries himself as a professional and a baseball player. In 2012, Kershaw became the youngest recipient of the Roberto Clemente award, given to the baseball player that has distinguished himself as contributing to society outside of baseball. This year, he received the Branch Rickey award, also in recognition of his humanitarian work. In 2011, Kershaw's wife Ellen convinced him to go to Africa with him to help in her cause, to help Zambian children orphaned by AIDS. To hear her tell it, between his relentless pursuits to get pitching and training in during the trip, he became wholly engrossed in the cause of helping these children. Kershaw has continued his work with Arise Africa, as part of his Kershaw Challenge fundraising efforts. Most recently, he hosted a ping-pong tournament, in which many of his teammates took part.

If you're dismal, this is a puzzle: why does the best young pitcher in baseball (who still wants to lead in the grueling race to be still better), devote as much time and effort as he does to helping orphaned African children? It's not even as if he is doing something that has a remote chance of ever redounding to his benefit: he is not helping out a teammate, a baseball player, an Angelino, or even an American. The Kershaws are not helping people in any "group" that they would conceivably be a part of. If the Kershaws had never happened upon the cause of helping African orphans, they would be no different.

If you're not dismal, then you can just enjoy this bit of philanthropy inside professional baseball, which very much needed a story like this.

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