Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 11/17/11
Even with a little fuzz on his face, Clayton Kershaw still looks like a kid off a Texas farm. He has unkempt hair and an "aw shucks" smile, but he'd be the first person you'd think of if a little old lady needed help crossing the street. He's that kind of guy sweet and self-effacing when he's not trying to throw a 95-mph fastball past Prince Fielder. But put him on a pitcher's mound and he's suddenly all business a 23-year-old with the heart of Tom Seaver. Or Don Drysdale. It was no surprise that Kershaw was named winner of the National League Cy Young Award, only that it wasn't unanimous. But it was close. He picked up 27 of 32 first-place votes from baseball writers and totaled 207 points to 133 for runner-up Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies, who received four votes for first and finished second. But really, could it have gone to anyone else? Kershaw captured the Triple Crown of pitching by leading the league in earned run average (2.28) and strikeouts (248) and tying Kennedy in victories with 21. That's a powerful case. "I always dreamed about playing baseball as a kid, maybe making it to the big leagues," Kershaw said at a news conference Thursday at Dodger Stadium. "But I never dreamed about anything like this." The Dodgers were prepared anyway. They brought in the media and a few season-ticket holders for the event, set up chairs on the infield dirt and surrounded Kershaw with oversized baseball-card posters of the team's previous Cy Young winners: Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Don Newcombe, Fernando Valenzuela, Mike Marshall, Orel Hershiser and Eric Gagne. Outside the ballpark, at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Elysian Park, a large, full-color billboard of Kershaw was ready for viewing. "Congratulations, Clayton!" it said. And Kershaw, dressed in a dark suit with his wife Ellen sitting nearby, handled questions with aplomb. When someone asked how he could top the past 12 months of his life he and Ellen were married in 2010 he said, "A second anniversary and a World Series sounds pretty good." Dodgers fans can only hope. They had a tough season when you consider the upheaval over ownership, a drop in attendance and a third-place finish in the NL West. But the Dodgers rallied over the final two months, and when the league's MVP is announced next week, it's possible Kemp could win that one. If nothing else, it would give fans reason think about spring training, especially if the NBA lockout washes out the basketball season. "We're all working for a bigger goal, and that's to win everything," Kershaw said. "I think we're on a good page for next year for sure." It was just five years ago that the Dodgers grabbed Kershaw in the first round of the draft. He was 18 at the time, a high school pitcher from Dallas with a lot of promise. He grew up a Texas Rangers fan and admittedly wasn't too familiar with Dodger tradition. But he learned quickly enough. "Tommy Lasorda called and told me I was going to be a Dodger," he said. "That was pretty cool." He spent two seasons in the minors but made it to LA in 2008, when he was just 20. Talk about growing pains: He went 5-5 in 21 starts with a 4.26 ERA. Looking back, he said, it was good to be force-fed NL hitters. Nothing like learning on the job. "One thing I'm thankful for is that I got up here at an early age," he said. "I was 20 when I got here and I wasn't very good. I struggled, and I think it helped me so much. I was able to learn and I took my lumps (but) I figured out how to be successful. "It was tough, but I'm thankful the Dodgers gave me a chance instead of being in the minor leagues." And now here he is, already acknowledged as one of the league's best pitchers at such a young age. He's still soaking it in. The phone call came earlier in the day from Jack O'Connell of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Kershaw listened to the news and was momentarily startled. "I didn't know how I'd react," he said. "I didn't know how bad I wanted to win until he actually called. I choked up. It was a lot of emotions. "You realize where you are, you realize what it means to be the Cy Young Award winner. It just sounds weird coming out of my mouth. I don't know if I'll ever get used to it." He should. He's good enough to win it again.
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