Celebrity charity tournament raises funds for children worldwide
By Steve Bourbon
LOS ANGELES -- While the Dodgers had a rare off-day on Thursday during the grind of the regular season, many players were out at Dodger Stadium to support their ace, Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw and his wife, Ellen, hosted the third annual PingPong4Purpose charity event at Dodger Stadium, a single-elimination pingpong tournament to benefit children in Los Angeles and the Dominican Republic.
Proceeds from the event benefit the Dream Center in downtown Los Angeles and the CURE Hospital for kids in the Dominican Republic. The overarching goal is to transform at-risk communities and the lives of children.
While Kershaw makes headlines for hurling a baseball every five days, his philanthropy is just as impressive. Through his organization, Kershaw's Challenge, the ace has given opportunities to children in his hometown of Dallas, as well as in Los Angeles, the Dominican Republic and Zambia, Africa. Kershaw received the Roberto Clemente Award in 2012, which honors the best player with contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.
"It speaks volumes to who they are as a couple and who they are as people," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "They use their platform really well, and it's not an easy thing to do. I'm really happy to have those guys in our organization."
The event was hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, and in addition to Kershaw's teammates, celebrities also attended, including Eric Stonestreet, George Lopez, Mario Lopez, Marcellus Wiley and Ken Jeong, among others.
"It's humbling for us to see the turnout, not to mention we get to raise money for two incredible causes. It's just so cool," Kershaw said. "It keeps getting bigger and bigger every year."
While Kershaw was paramount in organizing the event, he wasn't able to participate in the pingpong competition. Kershaw has a sore hip that caused him to miss his scheduled start on Wednesday.
"I probably could [play], but it's the smart thing to do, as much as I'd like to," Kershaw said. "I'll get to trash talk and watch."
Even before the event, the trash talk had already begun. Mattingly, who was paired with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, wasn't afraid of any challengers in the field.
"We take all comers," Mattingly said. "We're not backing away from anyone."
Others weren't so confident.
"I'm just here for my looks," said Jeong. "I haven't really done pingpong in forever, so I'm just here to help the Kershaws and the Dodgers."
While Kershaw and his 2.51 ERA continue to lead the Dodgers to first place in the National League West, his work in the community and across the world will continue even after his playing days are over.
"I think when Clayton is done playing, I think we'll all be talking about the stuff that they do off the field and the impact they've made in a lot of people's lives," Mattingly said. "Two really special people."
Steve Bourbon is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.