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Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Updated: January 18, 1:33 PM ET
Clayton Kershaw, wife talk charity

By Ramona Shelburne

LOS ANGELES -- On the day his representatives officially began what could be a contentious salary arbitration process with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and at the beginning of the week that will end with him officially accepting the National League Cy Young Award in New York, Clayton Kershaw held a news conference at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday to discuss something far more meaningful to him.

"You want to be remembered for something other than baseball and I think that's the point, that's the whole life purpose we're trying to figure out," Kershaw said of his experiences working with orphans in Africa the past two winters.

Kershaw and his wife, Ellen, recently returned from the southern African country of Zambia where they've raised money to help build an orphanage in the capital city of Lusaka. For the past week, they've been doing promotional events for the book they penned about the experience.

"We know we're only 23 and 24 (years old), and there's some life experience that we don't have," Kershaw said. "We're still young, we don't know a lot, but at the same time we still think we can make a difference."

Last season Kershaw donated $100 for each of his NL-best 248 strikeouts to Arise Africa, the Christian organization with which he has partnered to help build the orphanage. Proceeds of the book are also pledged to the organization.

It's a cause Kershaw got involved in through his wife, who has been making trips to Zambia for the past six years. It's also a side of himself that he doesn't show publicly very often.

"I think everybody has different approaches to it," Kershaw said of his religious convictions. "For me, everything I do has a purpose to it beyond what's in this lifetime."

Kershaw's comments and convictions land a bit differently at a moment in time when the sports world is fascinated by Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. The comparisons between the two are inevitable, even though Kershaw has been more understated in bringing his faith into the public discourse.

"Not to say that I separate the two (baseball and faith)," Kershaw said. "But I guess you could say that I'm a little more understated than Tim is. Not to say that either one is wrong, that's just kind of my personality.

"I have a lot of respect for Tim. I don't know him personally, but I think what he's doing is special. He gets a lot of recognition for it, good and bad, but I think that's just people have opinions about it because it's not seen a whole lot. But I think it does help to have other people in the athletic world that are doing that and you're just trying to follow their lead."

The Kershaws have raised almost $100,000 to build the orphanage in the past year. Their latest trip was more "just relational stuff. We pretty much just played with the kids, had fun with them," Kershaw said.

While in country, Kershaw said he was able to keep up his offseason conditioning regimen by playing long-toss with his brother-in-law and throwing pitches against a blue tarp.

"It's pretty old-school, but we get it done," he joked. "It's actually pretty tough to run there because the elevation is a lot higher, it's almost like Colorado."

Mostly though, Kershaw spent his time bonding and playing with the orphans.

"You look at some of these pictures of him, and he is just like a human jungle gym with these kids," Ellen Kershaw said. "He's got like five kids hanging off of him. They are just drawn to him."

Is any of that because he won the Cy Young Award this season?

"No," she said, laughing. "Unless Clayton played soccer I don't think they understood who he was or what he did."

Kershaw is due to accept the Cy Young Award this weekend in New York. He was a runaway winner after going 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA and 248 strikeouts.

He is expected to be handsomely compensated for that remarkable season during the arbitration process, although it's yet to be determined just how big of a raise he will receive from the $500,000 he made last year. Kershaw officially filed at $10 million on Tuesday while the team countered at $6.5 million. If the two sides don't settle, the case would be held before a three-person panel during the first three weeks of February.

"It's my first time, so I'm not worried about it," Kershaw said. "We'll see what happens. I have no idea what to expect, so we'll see."

The Dodgers would obviously like to appease their best pitcher before the process ever reaches the three-person arbitration panel as such hearings are often contentious. They could also theoretically sign him to a longer contract.

However that's hard to imagine with the franchise's ownership situation still unresolved. Initial bids are due to the New York-based investment firm handling the sale of the club by Jan. 23.

"I'm excited to see what happens," Kershaw said of the sale process. "I'm like everybody else just waiting to see. I know the bids are supposed to be in next week so we'll see what happens.

"I hope the new owner wants to win because it's important."

Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for