Created by the Rotary Club of Denver in 1991, the Branch Rickey Award honors individuals in baseball who contribute to their communities and are strong role models for young people.
At 25, Kershaw is the youngest person to receive the award.
Each year, major league teams nominate a player, coach or executive, either active or retired, for the award. The award is named in honor of the late baseball executive known for creating the framework for the modern minor league farm system and for breaking baseball’s color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson, the first black player in the major leagues.
“Branch Rickey is a pretty influential person, especially to this franchise. So it has a little bit special meaning to me,” Kershaw said.
A three-time All-Star and Cy Young Award winner, Kershaw also was honored with the 2012 Roberto Clemente Award for his sportsmanship and off-field endeavors.
Kershaw and his wife, Ellen, founded Kershaw’s Challenge, a foundation that seeks to transform at-risk children and communities. Their cornerstone charity, “Arise Africa,” has built and sustained an orphanage in Lusaka, Zambia, called “Arise Home.” Each year, the Kershaws travel to Africa to visit with children and to bring awareness of diseases and infections related to HIV and AIDS.
“My wife and I, we just feel so fortunate we get to do stuff off the field. To get recognized for it definitely isn’t what we’re in it for. But it definitely is a humbling thing to get that honor,” Kershaw said. “More than anything, it just kind of brings more awareness nationally to what we’re trying to do, not only in Africa but what else our foundation stands for. It’s a huge honor for us, and we’re just grateful for it.”
Kershaw’s Challenge is also involved with Sharefest in Los Angeles and Mercy Street in his hometown of Dallas, both of which seek to improve the lives of at-risk youth through after-school programs and sports. Since 2011, Kershaw has donated $500 to Kershaw’s Challenge for each batter he strikes out.
He leads the National League with 201 strikeouts this season and his 1.89 ERA is tops in the majors.
Kershaw (14-8) will be honored at a banquet in Denver on Nov. 16.
“We’ll be there,” Kershaw said, “hopefully a couple weeks after we win it all.”