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
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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)?
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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.
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.