By Rahul Lal
Winfield starred in what many would consider to be baseball’s golden era. His 22-year career featured 12 all-star appearances, seven Gold Glove awards, six Silver Slugger awards and a Roberto Clemente award. He was a World Series champion in 1992 with the Toronto Blue Jays.
JR sat down to discuss his opinion on the current state of baseball, with all the attention surrounding Bryce Harper and other MLB stars’ movement to make baseball more fun.
“The world has changed, and baseball will change,” said Winfield. “It’s just been slow in adopting some of these changes.”
With the baseball fun movement so strongly supported by baseball’s younger generation of fans and players, Winfield is finding ways to not only support their stance but also to support their learning of the game. He has been working with Capital One to create a points system that will, in turn, give $400,000 for the College World Series winner to donate and help men and women’s programs across the country.
“Being a former college athlete, I’m always glad to team up with a group or company or organization that is about educating and empowering student athletes,” said Winfield. “You look at all these young and inspiring people wanting to get an education, wanting to do good in the world and who are involved in athletics which gives them goals, the drive and determination.”
Winfield has discovered an appreciation for college athletes and their capabilities. And that’s why he’s so involved in events like the College World Series.
“The thing is that when you come to a town and collegiate sport competitions are going on, you see these young, inspiring athletes and families [who are] clean cut and hard working — it gives you a sense of pride,” he elaborated. “Maybe America’s going in the right direction.”
In 1973, Winfield was voted the MVP of the College World Series and became an All-American.
“I was slinging it back then. I was one of the two-way players: I was a pitcher and a hitter,” the Minnesota product said. “If we played a weekend series, I’d pitch the first game, and then go out to left field and hit cleanup the second game, and it was a lot of fun.”
Playing both positions didn’t last, though focusing probably helped him turn into one of the greatest outfielders to ever swing a bat. Winfield credits the players he learned from.
“I was so pleased to have a guy like Willie McCovey, to get under his wing, and he showed me the ropes. I’d go to other veterans who were successful but played the game out of dignity and that’s who I learned the game from.”
After an incredible two decades of playing professional baseball, Winfield’s love for the sport has never once dwindled. JR couldn’t help but ask if Winfield could still go out and hit a few home runs.
“I’m done. I try to look the part, but father time and mother nature caught up with me… you’ve got to move on and help the next generation.”
Listen to the full interview, covering these topics and more, on the latest episode of JR’s podcast, JR Sport Brief.
Rahul Lal is an LA native stuck in a lifelong, love-hate relationship with the Lakers, Dodgers and Raiders. You can follow him on Twitter here.