What do nine Opening Day aces have in common?

What do nine Opening Day aces have in common?

Gatorade Player of the Year

What do nine Opening Day aces have in common?

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Back in 1985, Gatorade established an award honoring the nation's top high school student-athletes. Since then, the Gatorade Player of the Year award has recognized more than 12,500 state and national winners in 12 sports.

Gatorade Player of the Year alumni include household names like Kevin Love, Dwight Howard, Peyton Manning, Derek Jeter, Candace Parker, Kerri Walsh and Abby Wambach — a distinguished group, indeed.

This week, we're catching up with Clayton Kershaw and eight fellow Opening Day starters in Major League Baseball.

Clayton Kershaw didn’t take long to show that he’s going to be all business this season for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound left-hander pitched an absolute gem on Monday, allowing no walks with seven strikeouts in a complete-game four-hitter as the Dodgers beat the San Francisco Giants, 4-0, on Opening Day.

Making Kershaw’s third straight Opening Day start even more special: the 2006 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the eighth with his first career home run.

Kershaw was one of eight former Gatorade Players of the Year to earn an Opening Day start on the mound, including Giants starter Matt Cain, the 2002 Gatorade Tennessee Baseball Player of the Year who matched Kershaw for six innings before departing with eight strikeouts and four hits allowed on 93 pitches (Kershaw needed just 94 pitches in his complete game).

Former POYs finished 3-3 with two no-decisions on Opening Day. The Red Sox’s Jon Lester (2002, Washington) and the Mets’ Jon Niese (2004 and 2005, Ohio) joined Kershaw in pulling out wins.

Oakland’s Brett Anderson (2006, Oklahoma), St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright (2000, Georgia) and Toronto’s R.A. Dickey (1993, Tennessee) got stuck with losses. Cain and Tampa’s David Price (2004, Tennessee) came away with the no-decisions, since the Rays’ bullpen cost Price a victory against Baltimore.

A special shout-out goes to Dickey, one of five Gatorade State POYs from 1993 still in the big leagues. The other four include three names you might suspect — Alex Rodriguez, Chris Carpenter and Torii Hunter — and one you most certainly would not: Jamey Wright, the erstwhile reliever now in Tampa Bay on his 10th team in 17 years.

Only one Gatorade winner remains on a Major League roster from before 1993: The 1992 winner from Michigan. Some guy named Jeter.

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