The Day Baseball Stood Still for Clayton Kershaw
If you rewind back to just one month ago Clayton Kershaw dodgers star. Pitcher was preparing for a new season. He's thirty two years old now. Where was his head at as he was eyeing twenty twenty campaign the number of times when Clayton Kershaw will be able to exit a season feeling completely healthy and be able to have deeply focused intentional work on getting stronger to enter the next season as a very small number? The career of an athlete is so truncated compared to the rest of us. That it's not exaggerating or overstating it to say that for some people it has to happen now and I mean that's where I found sort of the spark of the universe of this because in some ways a lot of people were dealing with that exact thing like what do you do when Tom has stopped. And yet you feel it just reeling away from you. Proclaimed Kershaw twenty twenty was looking like an opportunity for him to put his postseason demons in the past and finally win a ring but with baseball on indefinite hiatus in Kershaw Flying Blind. Without his normal schedule it's unclear whether he'll even get that chance. Espn's right Thompson was with the dodgers ace. When the sports world came to a stop he takes us inside that day and Kershaw's life in limbo. I mean economy. It's Wednesday April fifteenth. This is ESPN daily. So Right Clayton. Kershaw is of course one of the best pitchers in the history of baseball surefire hall of Famer. But he's also well known at this point for his postseason struggles. Where were you in? The dodgers lost the nationals. Last fall I was at my in-laws House last year during the playoffs and like everybody watch that game but one hundred six win dodgers getting a second crack to reach their fourth straight in the deciding fifth game. Dodgers NATIONALS. Coming up next on. Espn he got brought in and the seventh inning. They were up three to one over the nationals. And what's amazing is even with his postseason failures in the past. The crowd of dodger stadium was going crazy when twenty two ran out. There comes one of the best pictures of his generation. The left Clayton Kershaw. Everybody believed including Clayton. He got the last out of the seventh inning. Kershaw sets fires. Jack swearing did. He go did him out. Kershaw puts out the fire and he comes out in the eighth inning and gives up back to back home runs. Swing and a high fly ball. Well-struck left field near the wall eight. It's gone blast one off Kershaw. Swing High Fly Ball well-struck. Right CENTER FIELD WAY BACK THERE. God and we are back to back homers two consecutive pitches fifty eight seconds in which the nationals hit two home runs. And he's taken out of the game. Brought into a squat position. Didn't even look it where the ball went. This place is stunned. The picture of him in the dugout afterwards just looked like a guy who had his heart ripped out kershaw in the dugout. I mean it's that blank stare of just what just happened. Stephanie Abstain from sports illustrated described his eyes as red rimmed and is over the Washington. Nationals beat the dodgers. They're moving on to the NFL CS his quote after the game. Was everything. People say true right now but postseason? I understand that terrible feeling. This is about as low as a human being can feel in their work. Life is a terrible feeling. No excuses just didn't make this guy twice. I was just curious. What do you do after that? You have all this time to do nothing but think about it and then get yourself in a place to start over and try again. That seems way more impressive to me than the ability to throw a baseball like the the ability to do that. So the next day I sent an email to his agent and there were many agents and publicists and different things but it all started then I started to ask so the first day of the offseason. You Email Clayton's agent asking for an interview than hundred fifty or so days later on March Twelfth. You finally get through face to face with him. How did your day start out? Picks me up at six thirty right on Tom. He's never ever late. And so you know man. We're just riding along shooting. I mean you know we were laughing about the you know. He checks into hotels under fake names. He uses television characters He's been Jim Howard. He was Walter White for a couple of seasons. We went to starbucks and he The name was Tony. So if you're a starbucks or an uber driver in Los Angeles and you're picking up a Tony it might be Clayton Kershaw. And he's probably going to change that now. I'm sorry quite. I told him I was at that world series in Houston I timed. It was a thirteen seconds silence but God. It felt like three times. That's sitting in the car. And then he just changed the subject to talk about. The traffic is second to weather in terms of meaningless conversation. That people add. If if you're talking to someone and they're talking about the traffic the weather they do not want to be talking to. Of course the reason he didn't really want to discuss it isn't just because of what happened last season. It's because of what was the latest in May most gut wrenching in a string of disappointments for me right. What was frustrating. About watching this latest occurrence was it just reinforces. All of these bad sports takes stat e chokes. That's his reputation and it feels so unfair for one of the greatest pitchers of all time to be defined by that book. He's had some bad outings. He's also been the victim of just staggeringly bad management. He's had some bad luck. I mean we ain't even talked about the Astros thing yet where they just stole that when the first pitch swing flag. That's a tough shot. Sold the first pitch from Herschel and Houston as scored four runs bidding tits out Clayton Kershaw. Who has one of the greatest curve balls and one of the greatest sliders that have ever been thrown through fifty-one breaking pitches and the Astros Swung and missed at zero of them? Maybe no one was personally damage more by their cheating than Kershaw Houston. Astros have claimed that city's first ever World Series Championship Astros series important to this and it is damning but also right there's the National League division series against the cardinals the championship against the cubs. I mean there's just there's just a lot of examples at this point guys throwing a lot of postseason innings and he is catching the best hitters in the world at their very best and most motivated. There is a case to be made that it's bad luck but you're right. I mean. He has gone out when the team needed him to be. Clayton Kershaw and was a average major league pitcher. And you know you have to deal with that when you're doing the final accounting of him throwing a baseball my God. That's a huge part of it. So you were spending the day with Clayton to learn more about how he's processing all of that but it wasn't a normal day for either of you it was the day after the NBA. Suspended season because of the virus. So right you arrive at the dodgers silly together and then you immediately realize they're serious conversations happening about the fate of the baseball season. What was it like there? What was the scene like? I'm out in the lobby of the dodgers facility. And he's back through these double doors down this hall where the clubhouse in the lunchroom and all that stuff are the dodgers had shut down the clubhouse and everybody was freaking out so he was sitting back there with his teammates watching the news wondering if they were going to have a season wondering if they didn't have a season and there were no fans how they were going to get paid worrying about where they were going to live and what to do with their families worried about their parents. I mean the same thing that everyone was doing. It was crazy. Mean the night before that Wednesday night An editor Rachel had gone to the giants game. It was packed. I mean like we almost couldn't find a place to park. I mean we missed the first inning because there was so much traffic and so many people that we couldn't park. I don't know it sounds crazy naive now but I just sort of thought that I'd be following a ballplayer around pretty normal day. He came out to check on me. I think he felt a little guilty that he'd sort of promises ride along and we're going to go you know he's GonNa Pitch and work out and you're gonna go see the whole thing. It was interesting the degree to which he stopped being an athlete and I stopped being an annoying person. Follow him around right down in a notebook. He's also a pretty unique athlete. I suppose to experience this kind of day. And that sort of level of randomness with because there's absolutely nothing random about him and his approach and that's what's interesting to me. I mean I thought a lot about it because every kershaw profile is like six twenty takes a sip of water six twenty six he runs onto the field and IT 702. They sing the national anthem. And this goes on and on and on. It's sort of hit me. I was like well. What are these things have in common? What what is the through on? And it's not so much these obsessed with controlling everything instead. He sort of obsessed with time and managing it and understanding that it is currency to be spent so to see someone who is so intentional about how to be peak himself. If that's even what phrase on March Twenty six or on opening day to see that sort of start to disintegrate San through the fingers was very interesting. Did you get the sense that day? But any of that had even occurred to him yet. Because of the time we didn't know how long this is going to drag out. What these sort of formless stays would even look like. Did he seem worried about the fact that you know he might not be able to follow through with what should have been a very good season. Oh yes definitely was already like. They need to tell me what day. It's going to start because I can't. I don't know what to do every day if I don't have a day off in the future to back Tom all this stuff I mean. That's the thing he kept saying. I needed date. I need to know what to do. A coming up how do you prepare for a TB opening day while under quarantine with your wife and three kids You've been at the dodgers training facility. You're watching the news and it's pretty clear at this point you're not going to see Clayton Kershaw workout. We need you guys. Just decide to get out of there. I don't know he just came out. Let's go home. You know like okay. We walked out. We're still fans out. He and I both just couldn't believe that we are like. There's still people out there trying to get autographs craziest thing happened. We're in the car and just riding along talk and his phone rings and I looked down in the name shows up on the caller. Id on the console. And I just went home and I was like Oh. I'm so sorry but it was sandy. Colfax oh I know exactly. He was like he's like mind. If I answer this I might try not to look so overeager that my head spun off and I'm GonNa go ahead. It's very clear that they like and respect each other. They call each other Clayton Sandy. You know what I mean like. It's clear that it was just interesting to hear them talk. Because the number of people who can understand what Clayton's life like is very small and the number of people who've almost time traveled into the future and no things about his life and what it's going to be like that numbers even smaller so when they talk about. It was two pitchers. Talking wasn't an eighty four year old and a thirty two year old. It was two guys who could have been talking like there's at famous John mcfee story about the guy who makes birchbark canoes. I mean they were talking about making canoes. I mean they were just talking about their life's work so obviously Colfax and Kershaw are part of this sort of elite group of greatest of All Time. Right the difference being and now. I feel like a jerk. I'm bringing it back to this but it's unavoidable the postseason legacies in the postseason. Records is Kershaw. Do you think he's cognizant of that? Do you think it weighs on him. I don't know I think he will be later. In order to even have a chance to be Clayton Kershaw. You have to be able to process success and failure and build a story to tell yourself about yourself in a way that is every bit as rare as having the arm that can make the ball do that in the in the air. It's easy to go back out there if you keep succeeding having those failures and continuing to go out. There and try is deeply impressive. So you're saying we gotta do to be great right as blest petty could be less petty and just not live in a world in which you're defined by other people which unfortunately is the world. So how'd Your Day with Kershaw End? Think both of our minds were elsewhere. Almost the very end. He dropped me off at my hotel. He was GONNA to meet his family. I was going to try to find some hand sanitizer but it was very much you know. Thanks for the day I appreciate it. It was a weird day but lovely. I mean when I'm reporting my phone is off and so I got back to the hotel and turn my phone and call my wife Sonia. She was like you have to go get clocks wipes and hand sanitizer for your flight. All America has been freaking out over corona virus while you were sitting out at the Los Angeles dodgers with your phone off so it was the next time you got in touch with them. It's funny the only other time I've talked to him as he walked on. Zoom call with Ellen his wife and he walked by and waved a couple of days ago. How has he been spending the time? How is his family? Been spending the time how man they've been his son. They love to play baseball with a ball. They'd be doing a lot of that Ellen. Talked about how he's in the backyard growing into a net and sometimes he throws into a tarp. And you know he's trying to sort of stay in this narrow sweet spot where he's not burning up his arm and yet he's GonNa be ready you know. His workouts are done every day by eleven. Thirty cooking breakfast plan. Papa shot out this Jim. One twenty eight but jockey. I was worried about how I was going to report. And then it turns out that Ellen was filming all these videos of them playing at their house and sending them to the dodgers waiting. Everybody Line Buddy we are going to show you a day in the life of the Kershaw is May Day. She talked a lot about how you know. This is a weird window into what retirement is going to be like. He's in there flipping pancakes and being a dad. And they're watching movies and doing cannonballs in the pool. She realized that how nostalgic they're all gonna be for the sound of a baseball whizzing through the air and then whapping against a tarp or net once. All of this weird baseball circus is over. However many years from now that is she's like you don't really understand what a pitcher like Clayton's fastball. Sounds like until you can hear it and it's terrifying. I mean it's you know it's buzzing through the air so she talked about how she's going to be nostalgic for that sound a guys finishing day bring some books some waffles. It's been a good one. Thanks for hanging out with us. You'll stay safe and hopefully Yeltsin right so you. Did you get the sense from his wife's that they're almost enjoying this extra time with him? This sort of limited period or that. They want baseball to begin. Think both like full-throatedly both understand those are contradictory. But I mean that feels very human to me. He wants to go win a world series. He wants to be number. Twenty two for the Los Angeles dodgers the guy that people count on. He's at home in Texas in April which feels weird. His body knows. He's not supposed to be here. Clayton Kershaw body wants to know. Why the Hell it's not in Los Angeles you know I mean I'm sure like on a subliminal physiological level of feels weird right obviously this law season or Bradtha season on hold is affecting all athletes all baseball players but it seems to me that for someone like her Shah who is getting older who has so much to gain at this point in his career on a team that was regarded by many people to be the favourite going into the baseball season. Well he lose more. If this season never happened. I guess I'd like to let Ellen Kershaw into that. I just pull the story up. She said he is healthier than he has ever been. So I think that that has been frustrating because I think he was so ready to go into the season but part of me also wonders if taking these months off his just going to be more time for rest on his shoulder and then she said you know Clayton his pitch so many innings and I really hung mayor in the air. It's a story about one working person with a family dealing with the corona bars. It'll be a long time. And only with the benefit of hindsight will we understand sort of what was lost in what was gained? Thanks so much right. Any time really appreciate Coming up a different look at Jackie Robinson. Day here's another story. I want you to know every year. On April Fifteenth. Major League Baseball Celebrates Jackie Robinson Day commemorating the anniversary of the date. He debuted with the Brooklyn dodgers in nineteen forty seven becoming the first black major league player in the modern era this year. The League is celebrating the occasion. Virtually and our colleagues at the undefeated are also marking the anniversary online with a series of stories. One in particular that jumped out to me was by Andrew. Dessler who actually didn't focus on Robinson but instead highlighted the experiences of ballplayers phillies third baseman. Richie Dick Allen who signed by the team out of his Pennsylvania High School in nineteen sixty three more than a decade. After Robinson. Debut at Allen's first game with the Arkansas travelers a white supremacist group picketed outside the stadium. According to the peace he and his wife who were afraid to leave their home also faced racist attacks in Philadelphia. Despite this alad would go on to play for fifteen seasons winning awards like rookie of the year in nineteen sixty four and AL MVP in nineteen seventy two another player discern. Wrote about was Bob Gibson who famously played for the cardinals and the sixties and the seventies when he joined the team they were managed by Solly Hemas who is openly bigoted and frequently told Gibson to quit baseball and returned basketball instead. He was fired in Nineteen Sixty. One Gibson of course went on to become one of the greatest pitchers in baseball but he still received hate mail. Threatening phone calls at his house was pelted with eggs and bottles. There are numerous stories like this course and district tells them on this day in particular not to downplay the impact that Robinson had of the League but distress how far it still had to go. Jackie Robinson may have opened the door for other black players but once they walk through what they encountered wasn't always pretty and that ought to be remembered too. I mean times this has been ESPN daily. I'll talk to you more.