An MLB.com Diversity Discussion At NABJ In Alabama, Conjured Memories of MLBbro, Multi-Sport Star Dave Winfield 

An MLB.com Diversity Discussion At NABJ In Alabama, Conjured Memories of MLBbro, Multi-Sport Star Dave Winfield 

Last week’s National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) national conference in Birmingham, Alabama was a very busy one for the members of MLBbro.com who attended.

Site founder Rob Parker was inducted into the NABJ Hall of Fame and the staff was on hand for a press conference to cover and celebrate the announcement of the first MLB game at a Negro League Park at Rickwood Field

 

 

But it was a conversation in a MLB.com workshop that envisioned not only the current affairs for the declining numbers in Black representation in Major League Baseball, but conjured memories of an MLBbro Hall of Famer who bucked the trend that is rampant of African-American kids specializing in one sport in an effort to reach the professional ranks. 

 

African-American ballplayers accounted for only 6.2 percent of MLB rosters on Opening Day, which was down from 7.2 percent the prior season, which raises a relevant question.

Even though the offices of MLB are championing diversity in baseball, is there also an awareness that kids are turning to other popular sports such as basketball (much cheaper to start) and football (more popular as the nation’s number one sport)?

 

 

With baseball salaries tearing the roof off the salary caps of professional sports, with social media becoming a quick and easy marketing tool, MLB and MLBbro Hall of Famer Dave Winfield faced a choice no other professional athlete before or since had to make.

 

Dave Winfield Drafted By Four Pro Leagues In 1973

 

In 1973, Dave Winfield was the epitome of the American athlete, being the only one drafted by the NBA (Atlanta Hawks), the ABA (Utah Stars), the MLB (San Diego Padres) and — even though Winfield never played in a college football game — the NFL (Minnesota Vikings). His decision to play baseball illustrated how times were back then.

 

Baseball was once “America’s Game.”  The sport had plenty of MLBbro heroes at the time like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson providing a blueprint that kids could follow while creating their own pathway towards their MLB dreams.

 

MLBbro.com has discussed two-way athletes in the past with Deion Sanders, Bo Jackson and Brian Jordan providing excitement on the football field and baseball diamond respectively. 

 

MLB Needs A Return Of The Super Two-Sport Athlete | Legends Like Brian Jordan, Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders Are Missing

 

But Dave Winfield was decades before his time. What baseball is celebrating with Shohei Ohtani playing two-ways as a pitcher and DH today, pales in comparison to Winfield’s athletic potential. 

 

 

Winfield was better known as a right-handed pitching ace for the University of Minnesota. Check out the magical run in the College World Series before he reported to the Padres…

 

Winfield Dominated In College As Two-Way Player

 

  • In a 1-0 victory over the Oklahoma Sooners, Winfield struck out 14 batters.   


  • Facing the eventual national champion USC Trojans featuring four future major league players in Fred Lynn, Roy Smalley, Steve Kemp and Rich Dauer, Winfield gave up only one hit and struck out 15 in eight shutout innings!   


  • Along with his pitching, our MLBbro added a .467 (7-15) explosion at the plate to win Most Outstanding Player of the series. 

 

Besides baseball being his first love, what did Winfield’s decision come down to?

 

The chance to play baseball in the major leagues immediately was the decisive factor. 

 

“That was part of the negotiations,” Winfield said. “I had my options with basketball and football, and I said, ‘If I choose baseball, I have to go right to the major leagues.’

 

“They granted that wish. … I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I certainly didn’t want to go to the minor leagues.”

 

Winfield Skips Minor Leagues Goes Straight To The Show

 

Since the draft era started in 1965, only 24 players have bypassed the minor leagues and went straight to the majors. Dave Winfield is the only one to make the Hall of Fame.

 

Over a 22-year career, this MLBbro icon had a .283 batting average with 465 home runs, 1,833 RBI with 223 stolen bases. With 12 All-Star appearances, seven Gold Gloves and six Silver Slugger awards, Dave Winfield might be the most underrated Hall of Famer in all sports based on his potential who wasn’t tapped into based on the times. 

 

 

Winfield Working With MLB & Tony Clark 

 

As a Special Assistant to the Executive Director Tony Clark of the Major League Baseball Players Association, Winfield is doing his part to share the love he felt for young MLBbros in training.

 

He is on the board of directors of the MLB-MLB Youth Developmental Foundation geared to introduce and inspire African-American kids to play baseball while supporting the ones who have already started their journey. Dave Winfield shared thoughts on the progress at the recently finished Hank Aaron Invitational.

 

“It’s a joint effort, one of the handful of joint efforts by the Players Association, MLBPA, Major League Baseball and the Youth Development Foundation is… It’s been in existence since 2015, where money has been put together to support youth baseball in a number of ways – baseball and softball, actually around the country.”

 

 

Dave Winfield was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001. 

Exclusive| MLBbro Jeffrey Hammonds Drops Jewels Live From Hank Aaron Invitational

Exclusive| MLBbro Jeffrey Hammonds Drops Jewels Live From Hank Aaron Invitational

13-Year #MLBbro Jeffrey Hammonds played from 1993-2005 for six different teams and was an All-Star in 2000 when he batted .335 with 20 homers and 106 RBI.

He’s a representative of the MLBPA and a long standing contributor to baseball’s diversity efforts. The NJ native and Stanford University alum recently completed his fourth season with #HankAaronInvitational cultivating, developing and mentoring the next generation of ball players.

So many jewels dropped in the interview. Here is Part 1

 

Hank Aaron Invitational Is A Summertime Sample Of Baseball’s Black Excellence | Future MLBbros Will Be At Jackie Robinson Training Complex

Hank Aaron Invitational Is A Summertime Sample Of Baseball’s Black Excellence | Future MLBbros Will Be At Jackie Robinson Training Complex

Deion Sanders made some comments this week about why Blacks and baseball don’t seem to mix anymore like they once did. There’s a disconnect. Many of his points were valid, from high costs pricing certain minority families out of the sport to a low number of Black fathers passing the game on. While all of that is certainly true, MLB’s Diversity Team has been making incremental but successful efforts to increase Black participation in baseball at the grassroots and professional levels.

The Hank Aaron Invitational is one of these developmental programs that identify and encourage Black participation up the ladder.

 

How MLBbro Cal Mitchell Is Already Showing That The MLB Diversity Program Is For Real

How MLBbro Cal Mitchell Is Already Showing That The MLB Diversity Program Is For Real

When this story was in its infancy stage, it was supposed to be about the newest MLBbro, Cal Mitchell getting his first chance to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates after being recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis after showing improvement in the Pirates’ minor league system.  

With the Pirates struggling so much with depth in the outfield, our MLBbro found himself with a golden opportunity to show what he had over this past weekend in Pittsburgh’s 3-0 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday.

In his 10th game spanning 37 plate appearances, rookie Cal Mitchell had his first of many “Can’t forget” moments as he hit his first career home run.

 

This fifth inning launch off Zach Gallen broke a scoreless tie and gave the Pirates a lead that they never relinquished. Mitchell is now one of seven rookies that are currently on a roster that is supplying offensive production that most did not see coming.

Our MLBbro talked about his adjustment period via MLB.com.

“It’s cool. It’s guys that I’ve played with for a long time, like Travis, and guys like I recently met last year, like Jack,” Mitchell said. “We’re all great friends with each other and all have been fighting our way up here as long as we’ve been Pirates. It’s cool to be here together now.”

But our MLBbro’s journey to the professional level might be more interesting than his first career home run over the weekend.    

Not every ball player had a mentor that is up for election for the Baseball Hall of Fame such as Black Ace Dave Stewart, who was one of the all-time great right-handed pitchers of his era. His resume shows how lucky Cal Mitchell was to be able to play for Stewart’s Easton A’s from the ages of 11 to 13.

Now 23 years of age and well into his MLB journey, Mitchell says he didn’t realize the kinds of jewels that were being bestowed upon him by the 20-game winner and mound technician known as “Smoke.” 

 

 

“It’s wild, Mitchell said. “When I was a kid, I didn’t understand the gravity of it until now. Having him in my life helps with everything. How to handle yourself on the field. What the big leagues was going to be like or what the big leagues is like now.” 

“He’s a great friend, Mitchell said. “He’s knowledgeable on lots of things about baseball and life, just how to navigate this new thing that I’m doing. It’s invaluable.”

But our MLBbro didn’t just have the advantage of getting an encyclopedia’s worth of baseball knowledge from a MLBbro icon, the 2017 second round pick also is a product of the new MLB Diversity Programs which identifies, develops, supports and cultivates young Black talent, providing them with resources, professional training and educational opportunities that aren’t readily available to them. 

Mitchell utilized the MLB Diversity Pipeline and parlayed it into a roster spot on the Pirates.

Mitchell placed 25th on the MLB Pipeline list with 38 hits in 124 plate appearances that included nine doubles, five home runs with 26 RBI. That put him on Pittsburgh’s radar when they ranked him 7th in 2019.

Now he’s ready to secure his place as a mainstay in the MLB mix. Congratulations to Cal Mitchell on his first homer from MLBbro.com.