DENVER -- Dodgers star pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who, along with his wife, Ellen, has built a successful charity that maintains an orphanage in Africa, is the winner of the 2013 Branch Rickey Award, presented by AMG National Trust Bank.
The 22nd annual award was announced Thursday by the Rotary Club of Denver, which created the award in 1991 to honor "individuals in baseball who contribute unselfishly to their communities and who are strong role models for young people." Kershaw, 25, is the youngest winner in the award's history. He will be honored at a banquet on Nov. 16 at the Denver Marriott City Center hotel.
Each team nominates one player annually. A 450-member national selection committee of sports media members, baseball executives, past award winners and Rotary district governors votes on the award. This year, fans could vote via Facebook, and Kershaw won that voting by a large margin.
Kershaw, a three-time All-Star and the 2011 National League Cy Young Award winner, is the driving force behind Kershaw's Challenge, a foundation that aims to change the lives of at-risk children and communities. Its cornerstone charity, Arise Africa, has built and maintained Arise Home, an orphanage in Lusaka, Zambia, that houses nine children. This year, the charity's goal is to rebuild a school near the heart of Lusaka by adding five classrooms and a water well, and providing funding for a higher-educated faculty.
The Kershaws annually travel to Africa to visit with the children and bring awareness to issues related to HIV and AIDS. In 2012, they authored a book chronicling their lives together and their trips to Africa: "Arise: Live Out Your Faith and Dreams on Whatever Field You Find Yourself."
"Ellen asked me what I wanted my legacy to be," Kershaw said in 2012 during a promotional tour for his book. "You want to be remembered for something other than baseball. You can impact other people with your faith. That's the purpose of what this is all about."
Kershaw's Challenge also is involved in two endeavors to provide after-school programs and sports to at-risk children -- Sharefest in Los Angeles and Mercy Street in Dallas, Kershaw's hometown. Also, since 2011, Kershaw's "Striking Out to Serve" program has donated $500 to Kershaw's Challenge for each batter he strikes out -- and he leads the NL with 201 strikeouts this season. Kershaw also leads the Majors in ERA at 1.89.
Kershaw won Major League Baseball's Roberto Clemente Award for humanitarian service last year.
Proceeds from the Branch Rickey Award Banquet and silent auction benefit the many programs of the Denver Rotary Club Foundation, including Denver Kids, Inc., a preventive counseling and mentoring program for at-risk students in Denver Public Schools.
Blue Jays pitcher R.A. Dickey won the award last year. Past winners include Hall of Famers Dave Winfield, Kirby Puckett, Ozzie Smith, Paul Molitor, Tony Gwynn and Tommy Lasorda.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb.