This Father's Day will have special meaning for Los Angeles Dodgers lefthander Clayton Kershaw. He and his wife, Ellen, welcomed their first child, daughter Cali Ann, on Jan. 23. Less than 24 hours after Cali's birth, Kershaw flew across the country to accept his National League Cy Young Award at the annual Baseball Writers Association awards banquet in New York City. He spoke with ESPN.com's Anna Katherine Clemmons about how parenthood has changed his life both on and off the field.
ESPN.com: What has been the biggest surprise about fatherhood for you?
Clayton Kershaw: Everyone talks about how hard it is to have a kid, and that scares you into waiting. I'm not downplaying it now, because it obviously is tough [to be a parent], but when you feel that love, and it's instant, and it's so cool, so fun. When she smiles at you or when you just hold her, it's a pretty awesome feeling.
ESPN.com: Did you talk with any teammates beforehand about becoming a dad?
Kershaw: I talked to some guys. It's funny because everyone has different stories and opinions. You take what you can from it. It's kind of a fine line, though. You want information, but you don't want to hear all the horror stories.
ESPN.com: How did you come up with the name Cali Ann?
Kershaw: Cali was a name I've always loved. My teammate Brandon League has a daughter named Callie, and she's the cutest thing ever. So that might've helped. Ellen said, 'OK, you can name her. But I get to name the next one.' Ann is a family name; Ellen's grandmother and sister are both Ann.
ESPN.com: What were those first days and weeks like for you and Ellen?
Kershaw: We thought Cali wasn't a crier and we had it figured out. We thought, 'We have a really calm baby.' And she is calm. But then she found her lungs a bit later. It was pretty overwhelming to bring her home for the first time and realize you've got to make sure she stays alive. Ellen is incredible and already has the whole mom thing down pat, so I just follow her lead.
ESPN.com: Did you have much experience with babies, changing diapers or giving baths before she was born?
Kershaw: I had some practice changing diapers on my nephews, but I don't have any nieces, and girls are different. I've got it down OK now. I take a little pride in my diaper-changing, actually. It's the one thing I can contribute.
We did her first bath in the sink and just splashed water on her. She loves it. We swim with her all the time. She loves bath time; it's a highlight of the day.
ESPN.com: Any major mess-ups so far?
Kershaw: I've ruined quite a few sheets, mattresses and couches because I leave Cali undiapered for too long. By the time I get back, it's just ruined. I've made that mistake quite a few times. That's my biggest faux pas so far.
ESPN.com: What is Cali up to these days?
Kershaw: She's 4 months old now. She's very alert and has started to stand on her own two feet pretty well. She's rolling over. She's grabbing for stuff. She's very aware of her surroundings.
ESPN.com: How has being a dad changed your life on the field?
Kershaw: I don't think it's changed much on the field because when I come [to the ballpark], it's the same: I have a job to do. But when I go home, it definitely changes. People say to leave it at the field. I tried to do that before Cali, but I really do leave it at the field now that she's around. I see her, and it changes everything.
ESPN.com: Does she follow a baseball schedule?
Kershaw: Yes, she's on our schedule. She goes to bed around 11:30 or 12 at night and then wakes up about 10 or 11 in the morning, so I get that hour at night and then a couple of hours in the morning. The morning is awesome because she's so much fun and well-rested. That's my favorite time.
ESPN.com: Did you know beforehand if you were having a boy or a girl? Did you have a preference?
Kershaw: We found out beforehand that she was a girl. I wanted a girl. I'm an only child, so my mom didn't have any grandkids [until Cali]. Ellen's parents have three grandsons, so this is their first grand-daughter. I'd been around boys so much that I just kind of wanted a girl.
ESPN.com: What's the hardest part about balancing your career with your family life?
Kershaw: It's hard to go to the field at times because I like to get there early and get my work in. It's tough to leave not just your wife now but your family. You're at the field for a long time every day. You don't get to spend as much time with them -- that's the challenging part of baseball. But you learn to really enjoy the offseason time.
ESPN.com: Does Cali Ann come to your games?
Kershaw: Ellen brings Cali to a lot of games. She doesn't have a jersey yet, but she has a lot of Dodgers gear. She's very well-clothed. She's good to go.
ESPN.com: What do you hope to teach your daughter?
Kershaw: Other than her faith, which is something we're really going to try to instill in her, we really just want her to be happy. I know that's clichéd, but we want to do whatever we can to make sure that she's as happy as possible and try to give her everything she needs without spoiling her. It's tough because she'll grow up in a very different lifestyle than most kids, so we've got to protect her but also let her fall down sometimes too. I'll have to figure that out.
ESPN.com: Will you and Ellen be able to continue the work you've done with Kershaw's Challenge [the nonprofit they established to build an orphanage in Zambia and serve children's charities in Los Angeles and Dallas] or travel to Africa?
Kershaw: We didn't go to Africa this past offseason. I went to the Dominican Republic [to visit to a CURE hospital in Santo Domingo] for the first time. Ellen is as involved as she can be. We've got a great group of girls, and Ellen's dad is in Dallas working [on Kershaw's Challenge] 24-7. It's going well. We'd love to bring Cali to Africa with us when she's older.
ESPN.com: Will Cali play baseball or softball?
Kershaw: If she does, that would be great. But I want to let her do whatever she wants to do. My wife was a dancer, so I think Cali's going to be wearing tutus from about age 1 onward. She'll have a long road to baseball. (Laughs.)