Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw overpowered his fellow contenders in the National League Cy Young Award race just as he did Major League Baseball batters this season, capturing 27 of a possible 32 first-place votes to become the second Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year in three years to win the honor.
The 23-year-old Kershaw captured the triple crown of pitching, leading the National League in wins (21-5), ERA (2.28) and strikeouts (248). His 27 first-place votes gave him a total of 207 points, 74 more than Philadelphia Phillies ace Roy Halladay, the 1994-95 Gatorade Colorado Baseball Player of the Year.
"You never think you'll get to do, or win something like that," Kershaw told ESPN. "It's just so special, and I'm not taking it for granted. I'm just soaking it all in right now."
The same could have been said in 2005-06, when Kershaw earned Gatorade National Baseball POY honors as a Highland Park (Texas) senior. That season, he finished 13-0 on the mound with a 0.77 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 64 innings, leading his team to the Class 4A regional finals.
"Clayton represents everything good about this game and this award," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said in a statement. "He is a tremendous worker, a student of baseball and a great teammate. He's always trying to get better and deserves all the accolades that come his way."
Interestingly, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and Kershaw were high school baseball teammates. Stafford captured 2005-06 Gatorade Texas Football Player of the Year honors the same year Kershaw won the football award.
Kershaw became the second National Baseball POY to win a Cy Young Award in the last three seasons, as Zach Greinke won the American League honor for the Kansas City Royals in 2009. Greinke won 2001-02 National POY honors as an Apopka (Fla.) senior, when he finished 9-2 with a 0.55 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 63 innings.
Four Gatorade State Baseball Player of the Year winners have also taken home Cy Youngs in the program's 27-year history: 2003 AL and 2010 NL winner Halladay; 2008 and 2009 NL winner Tim Lincecum (2002-03 Washington POY); 2007 NL winner Jake Peavy (1998-99 Alabama POY); and 2005 NL winner Chris Carpenter (1992-93 New Hampshire POY).
Remarkably, Gatorade POY alumni have captured the last five National League Cy Young Awards and six of the past seven.