Watch a 19-year-old Clayton Kershaw pitch for Team USA in the 2007 Futures Game
Clayton Kershaw turns 30 years old today, and he does so as a bona fide superstar -- a three-time NL Cy Young Award winner with a claim to being both baseball's best active pitcher and one of the best left-handers of all-time.
But while plenty can be said about just how great the Dodgers ace's career has been (we're as guilty as anyone), let's take this time to do something different. Let's go all the way back to the beginning, before the NL MVP and the no-hitter and the seeming endless stream of outrageous GIFs: Kershaw's appearance in the 2007 Futures Game.
First, some backstory. The Dodgers took Kershaw, fresh off a legendary high school career in Texas, seventh overall in the 2006 Draft. A lot of prep arms take time to develop -- what with being 18-year-old kids and all -- but the lefty hit the ground running: He struck out 54 in 37 innings in rookie ball, then posted a 2.12 ERA over his first 15 starts with the Class A Great Lakes Loons in 2007. He was one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, ranked No. 24 by Baseball America, so naturally he earned an invite to All-Star Weekend at AT&T Park.
To give you an idea of just how far back we're talking here, consider a few points: 1) Kershaw was joined on the American pitching staff by Joba Chamberlain, Clay Buchholz and Luke Hochevar; 2) young Joey Votto!
... and finally, 3) he gave up a home run to James Van Ostrand, a Canadian who spent seven years in the Minors but never appeared in a Major League game:
Don't worry, though: Despite the setback and the pressure, it didn't take long for Kershaw to look like Clayton Kershaw -- just look at this knee-buckling curveball he threw to Elvis Andrus.
(Oh, and if you'd like to watch Kershaw very nearly begin running off the field after recording the second out of the inning, click play on the clip atop this post.)
Kershaw was promoted to Double-A not long after, and would take his place in the Dodgers rotation in May of 2008. More than a decade later, he's still going strong.
So happy birthday, Kersh, and if you need us we'll be watching that GIF some more while trying to figure out where the time went.