David Winfield has received numerous honors and awards during his adult life: All-American. College World Series MVP. Multiple major league all-star. World Series champion. Hall of Fame.
“I always thank the coaches that helped me, that helped mold and shape who I am, along with the game,” said Winfield last week before the August 11 pre-game ceremony at the St. Paul Saints ballpark. He and fellow St. Paul native Paul Molitor were honored by the team and the city.
“An icon of overcoming difficulties and really living his life in plain view for others to see,” noted Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter of Winfield. “I think that’s a good example for your children, families and people in our community, to not only follow in his footsteps but to make tracks of their own.”
During our interview, Winfield offered a piece of advice to youngsters: “Read, travel and meet new people. I was never afraid to branch out.”
He then offered an example of a time he branched out during his time at the University of Minnesota.
“I had an opportunity to play summer ball in Fairbanks, Alaska,” recalls Winfield. “I lived with a family, worked an eight-hour job [to] make money for college but we [also] traveled. We played in Europe. We played against Cuba, Nicaragua, people from Holland and played against the best college kids back in the United States. That took me to another level.
“If I’d never left or been afraid to leave St. Paul, I wouldn’t be the same person,” said Winfield. “To travel 1,700 miles away from home; to live with a family in a place I’d never been, [play] against stiff competition. I came back better for it.”
Since his retirement from baseball, Winfield have been running his own foundation, and helping local kids such as Darius Lopez and Noah Dehn to participate in a high level baseball camp in Florida.
“I wanted to thank him for giving me the opportunity to go [to Vero Beach]. It was a good learning experience,” said Dehn after he and Lopez met Winfield to personally thank him face-to-face. The two young men also posed for pictures with him “It’s great to meet a guy like that,” added Lopez.
Being honored last week by both the Saints and St. Paul is “only fitting because he’s meant so much to the community,” added Carter. “I didn’t grow up here or with him, so I met the legend. It felt good to stand in the same space as the man.”
“For St. Paul and the St. Paul Saints to honor David — of course, the Hall of Fame is extremely valuable but this is home,” said Frank White of Winfield. “He grew up on the playgrounds here and it is a tremendous story. It’s a great thing that the city is finally honoring [him].”
“It’s wonderful and it’s about time,” said Bill Peterson, who coached Winfield in youth baseball.
Winfield advises MLB players’ union executive director Tony Clark, “[who is] an African American…[and] a very strong influence in the sport of baseball. We work together,” he said.
“I have become a professional speaker for corporations, businesses and organizations around the world,” he added.
“I wouldn’t change a thing,” concluded the Hall of Famer.
Read more on David Winfield and last week’s ceremony in Sports Odds and Ends in the MSR sports section.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.