Life Threw Me a Curveball, but Clayton Kershaw Inspired Me To Persevere


Incredible. Amazing. Magical. Historic. There’s so many words and emotions running through my brain and my heart tonight. There has only been two Dodger Most Valuable Players during my lifetime. Kirk Gibson‘s honor came when I was nine years old. While I do remember that life changing season, it took a long time for me as an adult Dodger fan to once again experience the delight of watching a Dodger win the coveted award.

Kershaw’s M.V.P. Award is perhaps a little bit sweeter for me today, because I am recouping from a trying personal time in my life. My three-year old daughter, a left-hander herself, underwent eye surgery the morning before the M.V.P. Awards were announced. While baseball certainly becomes insignificant during a time like that, I felt so joyful to hear the news about Kershaw on Thursday.

My first Dodger Game. Photo: Stacie Wheeler

The Dodgers have become such an intertwined part of my life since I first looked upon that emerald green grass of Dodger Stadium on May 2, 1986. My mother just recently found the ticket stub to my first Dodger game, a 3-2 win over St. Louis ironically. Since then, my love for the Dodgers has grown exponentially. Two years after my first game, the Dodgers won the World Series. Twenty-six years later, I’m still waiting for my Boys in Blue to capture that elusive flagged trophy.

Kershaw’s 2014 season is a journey which I will never forget. Starting in Sydney, Australia, Clayton embarked on one of the most determined seasons by any Dodger which I have ever seen. A shoulder injury would sideline the ace, but that set back would only push his competitiveness into overdrive. Clayton is one of the fiercest competitors I have ever seen, and his fortitude has given me inspiration this year to overcome my personal obstacles and to stay positive even when things look grim.

Sure, Kershaw’s pitching stats are astonishing, but I think what really sets him apart from other Major Leaguers is his humbleness and his charitable endeavors off the field. He’s the quintessential Dodger, and he’s an inspirational role model. My Uncle Mark often told Scott and I stories of his favorite Dodger Sandy Koufax, and now I am sharing memories in Blue with my two daughters while watching Clayton Kershaw pitch.

When life gets hard and throws you the proverbial curveball, baseball can be an escape. While I worried about my daughter’s procedure, writing about the Dodgers gave me a moment each day to put my stresses aside even if temporarily. Even though baseball is just a game, it can be a medicine when one needs a dose of distraction.

My little Dodger fan and south paw. Photo: Stacie Wheeler

2014 was a difficult year not only for me personally, but also for the Dodgers. A triumphant National League West title segued into a shortened postseason which culminated into the worst ending possible for a Dodger fan. Watching the Giants win yet another Championship was heartbreaking, but Clayton Kershaw’s M.V.P. Award somehow lessons the pain just a bit. Knowing that the Dodgers have the best player in the league for many more seasons to come gives me much hope that my dream to watch Kershaw pitch in the World Series will definitely become a reality.

Sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. Kershaw’s 2014 season was spectacularly beautiful. His no-hitter was something everyone predicted would eventually happen, but it was nonetheless breathtaking and captivating to watch when it did. Now with another Cy Young in tow and a M.V.P. Award to boot, Kershaw will undertake perhaps his most challenging inning of his life yet: fatherhood.

While postseason losses are incredibly bitter and disappointing, there’s nothing that hurts more in life than when your child is sick or hurt. Clayton and Ellen Kershaw will no doubt be wonderful parents to their daughter who is due in January. The couple have been pouring their hearts into Kershaw’s Challenge which aids children in Africa and local charities as well. I’m sure one day their daughter will gift her father and mother a mug which may read “Most Valuable Parent.”

Striking out the opposition with Public Enemy #1 a.k.a. Clayton’s curveball has garnered the south paw accolades galore, but his biggest legacy will most likely be off the field. Winning the M.V.P. Award was not only a prize to be cherished by the team, but it is also a memorable moment shared amongst all Dodger fans. A moment which gave me teary eyes at a time when my emotions had already been raw.

My little M.V.P. Aliana Wheeler bravely endured surgery like a champ. She was ready to tumble across my living room floor the next day. Already talking about going to a Dodger game next season and eating cotton candy came up in conversation post-op.

I cannot wait to take Ali to see Clayton Kershaw pitch next season.