What goes through Clayton Kershaw's mind when he's on the mound?
"Just trying to execute," Kershaw said. "I think that's the only thing. For me, you look at the target and throw as hard as you can and expect the results to be there. It sounds easier than it is, but if you throw a hundred and something pitches in a game, there's a lot of time ... that's a lot of time you have to focus. You know it's not easy and sometimes you're not going to be all the way there, but that's the goal."
Kershaw also discussed the unique mechanics of his windup.
"I think there is some deception involved," Kershaw said of the advantage his windup gives him. "I think some of the hitters that have told me before that it's not always easy to pick up the baseball. That's kind of the goal, to be deceptive out there."
Kershaw isn't just wily in his windup; he can also befuddle hitters with the impressive repertoire of pitches he's picked up along the way.
"Growing up, you learn how to throw the fastball," he said. "And from there, I learned how to throw a curveball. And the changeup I'm still working on and really haven't figured that out all the way yet. I haven't figured out anything all the way. And the slider was the last pitch I learned. I learned that two or three years ago, and it's been a big pitch for me."
If Kershaw had to choose one pitch that's the hardest to master, he'd go with the changeup.
"I think the changeup is the hardest, just because it's a feel pitch," he said. "You can't just throw as hard as you can. There's definitely a element of feel to it that is not always easy for me to figure out."
And Kershaw is especially fond of his "out pitch."
"I throw the fastball the most. So I think most pitchers would say the fastball is the most important pitch," Kershaw divulged. "If you can command that, you're going to be OK."
OK, Kershaw has been.
Megan Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest who earned the job of youth correspondent in 2011, is a reporter for MLB.com.