Kershaw, Koufax chat -- courtesy of Torre
Young lefty talks to Dodgers legend on plane after event
PHOENIX -- Joe Torre hasn't named Clayton Kershaw his Opening Day starter yet, but the manager gave another indication that the 21-year-old left-hander can be the next Sandy Koufax when he arranged an hour session for Kershaw with the original Sandy Koufax.
The tutorial occurred on a private jet bringing Torre's party back to Phoenix on Saturday night after more than $700,000 was raised for Torre's Safe at Home charity event during a rare conversation between Torre and Koufax at the Nokia Theater, emceed by Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers.
Torre also took coaches Rick Honeycutt and Don Mattingly to the event, but it was the hour that Kershaw spent talking to Koufax on the plane that could benefit the Dodgers in the standings.
"The guys talked the whole way back about pitching and competing," said Torre. "It was good to sit and watch and listen to it."
Torre said Koufax is in Arizona to visit family, but he's expected to soon appear at Camelback Ranch-Glendale, as he did last year, and no doubt will watch Kershaw at work, as he did two years ago at Dodgertown.
"It was pretty awesome," said Kershaw. "We talked for an hour and it was unbelievable. I learned more on one plane trip than I have in a long time. Honeycutt is great with the mechanics, but at the same time, this is one of the best ever. It's pretty cool.
"He just talked baseball, talked pitching. He gave me a lot of good insight. He watched my bullpen [session] a couple years ago, but this was the first time I really talked to him. Pretty awesome."
Koufax, 74, has that effect, yet it isn't unusual for young players to also praise Koufax's ability to connect with them, which is not always the case with great players. Koufax spent a decade as a Minor League instructor in the Dodgers organization.
"The best way to describe it, you feel really comfortable with him," said Kershaw. "Some Hall of Famers, I won't say you can't approach them, but you are in awe. That's how I was at first. Still, he's really easy to talk to, like another coach. It was awesome last night."
Torre said the night was a big success for his charity and drew a star-studded crowd that included comic Billy Crystal, who did a 15-minute warmup act for VIP donors at the backstage dinner. Torre said Hollywood was represented by Ron Howard and Penny Marshall along with Crystal; former Dodgers Lou Johnson, Tommy Davis, Chuck Essegian and Al Ferrara were there, and former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley bought a table.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.