‘Super excited’: Clayton Kershaw’s teammates thrilled he re-signed with the Dodgers
As news began to trickle out Friday afternoon, a wave of emotion swept through the Dodgers organization.
Clayton Kershaw, after all, is still the face of the franchise, the heartbeat of the team. So when his first foray into free agency ended with him back in Los Angeles, the 34-year-old agreeing to a one-year deal that extends his Dodgers career to 15 seasons, people in the organization felt a communal burst of excitement — and also shared a long-awaited sigh of relief.
“It’s Kersh, he’s the guy,” said infielder Max Muncy. “He’s one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. And for him to have another year with the Dodgers, I think it’s only fitting.”
Muncy’s phone began buzzing nonstop as the signing became public, flooding with texts from fellow Dodger players ecstatic to have their longest-tenured teammate back.
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“Everyone was super excited about it,” Muncy said. “Our group chat was going crazy.”
Those who arrived to spring training early at Camelback Ranch also reveled in Kershaw’s return, which has yet to be announced publicly by the team but was confirmed by the pitcher in an Instagram post Friday night.
“As soon as that was announced yesterday, the few guys who were already trickling in, the smiles I saw,” said former Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, who has helped out the team’s pitching development staff this spring. “I saw [Brusdar] Graterol, and he was like, ‘The big man is back!’ … That is the respect they have for him. They know he is part of them.”
Honeycutt has seen almost every step of Kershaw’s evolution — from his development as a promising young prospect, to his emergence as one of the sport’s preeminent superstars, to the way he has become interwoven with the fabric of the team.
Honeycutt still vividly remembers his first impression of the tall Texas left-hander during a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox ahead of the 2008 campaign.
That night, Kershaw gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, but then struck out the side — mowing through bonafide big leaguers including David Ortiz.
“He comes back in [the dugout] and he sits down next to me and just goes, ‘Man, that was fun,’” Honeycutt said with a laugh. “To me, it was just like, the excitement of what the game should be to somebody. The experience, the outcome and the joy he had of getting to compete.”
That’s the balance Honeycutt believes Kershaw has perfected over his career, matching a stoic façade and fierce competitive nature with an infectious energy.
It’s why, even as he became a future Hall of Fame pitcher, winning three Cy Young Awards and an MVP award, teammates continue to gravitate toward his presence, finding motivation in his demanding demeanor instead of being pushed away.
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Former Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, who has spent the last several seasons as an analyst on SportsNet LA, described it with two traits: “The dependability and reliability of who he is,” he said, “I find that to be remarkable.”
“There was not one day in my time as the GM or my time since that I’ve ever worried or doubted who he is, what he’s about and his hunger and relentless pursuit,” Colletti added. “He has always, always — when the expectations were general, exceeded them by miles, and when they got to be huge, exceeded them again.”
Everyone around the club knows that, one day, that constant presence will be gone, that Kershaw days in a Dodgers uniform will come to an end.
The thought made Colletti choke up while on the SNLA set near the end of last season, when he watched Kershaw walk off the mound at Dodger Stadium with a season-ending elbow injury — the pitcher keeping the ball gripped tightly in his hand after what was potentially his final game at Chavez Ravine.
When manager Dave Roberts talked to reporters before the news of Kershaw’s signing Friday, he also acknowledged the thought of Kershaw’s possible departure as being “very strange.”
“It’s going to be an adjustment for everyone,” Roberts said.
Just not an adjustment they’ll have to make yet.
“It’s special to be around him, special to have him back,” Muncy said, adding with conviction: “The guy needs to end his career as a Dodger. So hopefully there’s a couple more years in there.”
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