Clayton Kershaw soaks up the All-Star start at Dodger Stadium

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American League’s Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels, left, heads for first base as he singles against National League starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, Tuesday, July 19, 2022 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

PA

Clayton Kershaw’s press conference after his first All-Star Game start was almost over when Blake Grice spoke.

The 10-year-old Denver boy said his grandfather was a Dodgers fan and a Redondo Beach native who died of brain cancer. Meeting Kershaw made Blake tick off an item on his grandfather’s to-do list, the boy said before tearing up.

Kershaw smiled, rose from the stage and grabbed Blake in a protective embrace.

“Your grandfather seemed like a great guy,” Kershaw said. “Thank you for coming. It took a lot of courage man, it was awesome.

After posing for photos of Blake’s father, Kershaw gracefully returned to the dugout for the final rounds of the Midsummer Classic to a stadium filled with fans who adore him as much as Blake, who reviews baseball cards on YouTube .

Kershaw remembers what he means to baseball and to Los Angeles with every start he makes at Dodger Stadium, where he has been a vital part of a perennial Newfoundland powerhouse for the past 15 seasons.

After nine All-Star selections and six previous in-game appearances, the three-time Cy Young Award winner chanced upon his first chance to start an All-Star Game at his home park, and he met the opportunity by throwing entertainment, without purpose. first run.

“It was actually a lot of fun being there today, and the crowd was awesome,” Kershaw said. “I can’t say enough good things about the Dodger fans, the people of LA in general, how much the last few days, how much they wanted me to do this. It meant a lot to me.”

Kershaw also allowed himself to soak up the moment just before stepping onto the mound to take on Shohei Ohtani.

After all, the 34-year-old Kershaw has done just about everything a pitcher can do in modern baseball, but he’s never started an All-Star Game before. He also knew he would never have the opportunity to do so again in front of the fans who have followed him since he was a 20-year-old phenom.

“I tried to take a minute at the beginning to take it all in and look around, which I usually never do,” Kershaw said. “Being here at Dodger Stadium, a place I’ve been at now for 15 years, and being able to do something like this with the best in the world, it’s really fun. And it was also very personal for me and my family, everything the world. I’m glad it’s over.

The all-star game was special for the whole local organization. The NL-leading Dodgers placed six players on the roster, and Mookie Betts and Trea Turner drove in the first innings.

Kershaw even bought a suit to surprise All-Star right-hander Tony Gonsolin to wear for the game, though Gonsolin later gave up back-to-back home runs to Los Angeles natives Giancarlo Stanton and Byron Buxton.

But the hometown star of the night was undoubtedly Kershaw, who received the first of several standing ovations as he took to the pitch for his pre-match stretch. He got one of the biggest crowd pops during the pre-game introductions, and he got another when he took the mound.

When he gave up a broken-bat single to Ohtani on his first pitch, Kershaw was unfazed. He knew Ohtani was going to swing on his first pitch, and he didn’t feel right starting an All-Star Game with a breaking ball.

“He didn’t hit it over the fence so it was a win and we can move on.” said Kershaw. “You kind of had to give him a heater there. It needs to be done.

Kershaw then atoned by removing Ohtani from first base, although he claimed it was accidental: he was trying to decide which pitch to throw next to Aaron Judge, so he only threw first to gain ground. time, but caught Ohtani bent over.

Kershaw knocked out the judge, but made Rafael Devers walk before Vladimir Guerrero Jr. found himself in a late-inning forced out. Kershaw did some scouting work before the game, but only at the top of the AL roster.

“If I had to face more than four batters, I didn’t know what to do,” Kershaw said.

Kershaw was in high spirits throughout Tuesday night — not just because of his night of partying, but because he had already accomplished his most difficult task of the All-Star break.

When asked what he would take away from the week’s festivities, he joked, “My 2-year-old son is a maniac. Trying to contest it for the Home Run Derby, I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired as last night.

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