MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s difficult to argue that Dave Winfield is, by most accounts, the most gifted athlete to come out of Minnesota.
The fact Winfield was drafted in three sports and was never even was allowed to hit a baseball until his senior year in college is affirmation. Why he ultimately settled on baseball, is interesting.
“Just growing up here in St. Paul, I was exposed to all the sports, every season we’re doing something. But baseball, something about it, playing outdoors, the crack of the bat, I always had a good arm, we had good teams, learned how to play right. I was 12 years old and they would ask me, ‘What do you want to be?’ ‘A professional baseball player,'” said Winfield.
He still works for the San Diego Padres and does some broadcast work. He is an interesting man — so much natural ability but yet such a student of the game, rare combination. He understands the game’s history and its place.
“Why do you think baseball has achieved this resurgence and gotten back to the pinnacle and become so popular again?” asked WCCO’s Mike Max.
“It depends on how you look at it. It’s America’s sport still. Look, Super Bowl is a big deal but everybody can’t play football and … when you talk about the history of America, baseball is intertwined with it every step of the way. It changed the social fabric of America going back to Jackie Robinson,” said Winfield. “But if you bring it up to date, everybody can play baseball. You can be 5-foot, 4 or you can be like big Rauch, big John Rauch on the team. You can be a big old dude and you can be everything in between and that’s what America is all about.”
It is, in many ways, sports that have led change in the country. And Winfield has lived through it.
“In many respects, did sports in your mind, lead the integration of the United States long before other sectors, politics and corporate America did?” asked Max.
“Yeah, to a large degree. Jackie Robinson helped change the social fabric. I think he did it and then the military changed after that. Corporate America has been slow to change, politics has been slow to change but it all changed and it started then, through the sport,” said Winfield.
“Playing basketball on the University of Minnesota there was a time where we were one of the first teams that could put five black guys on the court at the same time and people would stop and say ‘Wow, this is different,” recalled Winfield.
And he understands that the Twins are anchored by another St. Paul native who, like Winfield, grew up multi-sport and grew into an all-star.
“What do you see when you see Joe Mauer? And what does he mean, not just to the Twins, but to Major League Baseball?” asked Max.
“Joe Mauer is one of the most likeable, respected players in the game today. He’s the best catcher in all of Major League Baseball,” said Winfield. “My brother Steve, who works for the sheriff’s department in St. Paul … he told me even before Mauer became who he is, ‘There’s this young athlete you gotta keep your eye on him … because he plays football, he plays basketball, he’s not afraid of these guys out here. He gets it done.'”
Playing with six major league teams, Winfield has a World Series ring and is a hall of famer. As he looks back, what is it that he cherishes most?
“There is a lot of legend and lore about Dave Winfield … and most of it is true but what’s funny is there is so little video tape to show these exploits. But I think for me to be able to give back, to be able to tell the stories, give back and say what it takes to be a successful person in your life. It isn’t all about the money, the fame, it’s about being all you can be. … You’re given certain God-given gifts and if I can just instruct people, give it all that you can,” said Winfield.