And for Dave Winfield, a man who was drafted by three different professional teams in three different sports, such an aspiration never seemed too lofty.
“People would say ‘yeah, yeah, yeah.’ But the thing was: I found something I loved. And I was pretty good at it. Next thing you know I was drafted. Four years later, my dream came true.”
In the minds of today’s youth, such dreams continue to be commonplace, which is why Dave speaks with us from the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA, where his partnership with Ask.com and Susan G. Komen for the Cure continues its tireless campaign of awareness, action and prevention.
“I just think back to when my brother and I were playing baseball at this age, if we would’ve had the opportunity to play on these beautifully manicured fields against kids from around the world, this would’ve been the highlight of our lives.”
Luckily for Dave, his highlights came later in life, in the way of 7 Gold Gloves, 12 All-Star selections, a World Series ring and a spot in baseball’s coveted Hall of Fame. But the kids in Williamsport still have plenty to look forward to:
“I know how much they love it. And they’re excited about it and how they’ll remember this experience the rest of their lives.”
There’s no doubt about that. And one needn’t look only to the Little League World Series to find such enthusiasm. Just head out to your local youth ball field and watch how regimented, how jovial, how respectfully the game is played, even on a small level. It is with that in mind that Dave recalls one of his more cherished little league memories:
“We used to take infield practice that was flawless. That was our goal, to take these flawless infield practices before the game and it would set the tone and intimidate the opposition. We were good.”
In fact, back then, growing up in Minnesota following the Twins, Dave’s focus was on defense.
“There were many players on that team but the one I really liked was Zoilo Versalles. He was a shortstop. And his glove was what I’ll never forget. I followed those guys. Harmon Killebrew. Tony Oliva. Guys like that. We used to imitate all of them.”
Kids will always imitate their heroes. They will always dream big; always envision themselves in the spotlight. But with only 30 teams and set 25-man rosters, the reality is that only 750 Major Leaguers can exist at any one time. So Dave’s advice to kids with Big League aspirations is “to get their education. Do well in school. Be versatile.”
“Enjoy the sport. Go hard. We’ll give you every tool and every opportunity to succeed. Just know that there are other things in life too.”
Of course, not every kid can grow up to be Dave Winfield. But every kid can grow up to be like Dave Winfield — to do things the right way, to respect that which demands respect and work hard to make a difference.
If every little leaguer can live up to those ideals, then the future is as bright as their dreams are big.
Written by Jeffery Lung
Special thanks to Zack Nobinger for arranging the interview.
For more information on Dave Winfield’s thoughts on the progression of little league baseball, check out his book Dropping the Ball.
Click *HERE* to read Jeff’s interview with Ozzie Smith.
Click *HERE* to read Jeff’s first interview with Dave Winfield.
to read Jeff’s interview with Ken Griffey, Sr.
(Top image courtesy of Essence.com)
(Bottom image courtesy of Tim Shaffer/Reuters)
Growing up a kid in America is synonymous with being a dreamer. We’re taught that anything is possible if we’re dedicated, if we work hard. And we often model ourselves after those we look up to, our heroes.
I always had two: my dad, whom I got to see everyday, and St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame shortstop, Ozzie Smith. Many a summer afternoon was spent in the backyard… swinging like Ozzie, diving like Ozzie, smiling like Ozzie.
“I want to be Ozzie Smith,” family members recall me saying, “I want to be Number One.”
So what does one say when he finally gets to have a conversation with his boyhood hero?
“My grandpa had Musial. My dad had Gibson and Brock. I had you, Ozzie.”
And Ozzie’s response?
Of course, I expected nothing but the coolest things from the man who gave us reason to Go crazy, folks, go crazy! Heck, it’s been nearly 25 years since that homerun prompted Jack Buck to give us his iconic call, but I promise you this: to a Cardinals fan, it never gets old.
“It never went away,” chuckled a candid Ozzie Smith, “and as a matter of fact, it’s still reverberating today. I have little kids coming up to me, reciting that. So yeah, it’s pretty cool.”
Indeed it is pretty cool and so is Ozzie Smith, the man: 15 time All-Star, 13 time Gold Glove Award Winner, Hall of Famer and all around good guy.
The seriousness of prostate cancer cannot be overstated. In fact, 1 out of every 6 men will experience the disease, as it is the second-leading cause of male cancer-related deaths in the United States.
“I’m just here to encourage all men 50 or older (40 or older for African-American men and those with a family history of the disease) to get involved, talking with their doctors about prostate health. Because with early detection, prostate cancer isn’t only treatable, it’s beatable.”
As was Ozzie’s signature game plan on the field, the best way to beat this disease is with strong defense. And if anyone knows anything about defense, one need look no further than The Wizard.
After a decade plus of abnormal offensive numbers in baseball, Ozzie sees the current renaissance of pitching and defense themed ball-clubs as a natural, cyclical part of the game.
“It’s the way the game is supposed to be played. You can get a lot more out of playing the game the proper way than just building your team from an offensive standpoint.”
If you’re looking for an example of such managerial strategy, Ozzie suggests we look at those teams at the top.
“The Atlanta Braves in the East, I think they’re one of those teams. Not a whole lot of power, but they certainly do the little things that it takes to win. The Cardinals have always been one of those teams that have done that and I think it’s part of what’s allowed the Cincinnati Reds to lead their division this year.”
Such game theory often begins with the manager and Ozzie Smith was lucky enough to serve under one of the best, one of this summer’s Hall of Fame inductees: Whitey Herzog.
“As a manager, the goal is always to make players better than they are. Whitey was certainly one of those people. The relationship we had was of admiration and respect. A good manager, like Whitey, only has two rules: be on time and give a hundred percent. As a professional athlete, that’s all you can ask, to be given the opportunity to do what it is you do. If you can’t abide by those rules, then you shouldn’t be playing.”
And as we gear up for the 2010 All-Star Game in Anaheim, it’s a pretty safe bet that the players involved abide by those rules. One cannot be the best without giving his best. As a 15 time All-Star himself, Ozzie was quite comfortable being at the top of his game. When asked to describe his fondest All-Star memories, he was quick to answer.
“The first one I had a chance to go to in 1981 and then my final one in 1996, those two really stand out. The first one simply because of the excitement of going to your first All-Star Game and the festivities, the lockering, visiting with guys you admired from afar and played against, having a chance to play with them was very special. Then the reception I received in Philadelphia for my final one was very, very special.”
Yep. It sure was. In fact, I fondly remember… crying. I was 17 years old, my hero was retiring and I was morbidly afraid of baseball without Ozzie.
But I quickly learned: no one can take away memories, no one can take away dreams. The game continued on and Ozzie never really went away. The moments he created are remembered today. His work ethic is passed down. His desire to help those in need, to educate, to make life better wherever possible through public service, as he’s doing with the Depend Campaign, all these things make him forever an All-Star.
Forever a hero.
Forever a reason to go crazy, folks.
Written by Jeffery Lung
Special thanks to
Kristin Adams of Taylor PR for arranging the interview.
Click *HERE* to read Jeff’s interview with Dave Winfield.
to read Jeff’s interview with Ken Griffey, Sr.
Well, if the “news media” and its “official reports” are to be believed, it appears that Placido Polanco will be leaving the Motor City for the City of Brotherly Love. Pla-Po (a name I gave him that just doesn’t seem to be catching on) will take his Gold Glove and join the not quite World Champion Phillies, leaving Detroit slightly more sucky. If that’s possible.
Now, as bad as this news is, it was made worse because I found out about it in the same way I inevitably hear about most bad news involving the Tigers, a gloating email from Jeff:
I’m sorry for your loss of of Polanco back to the Phils.
You know what else sucks? You suck. You……sucker.
There, now that I’ve finally added a certain level of maturity to the discussion maybe I can move back to the important question which is, what do we do now? My lucky wood carving of Simon Bolivar practically screams out to address the problem by acquiring more Venezuelans. But I think the number of Chavistas on the team right now already leaves the Tigers in danger of imminent nationalization at the hands of El Jefe. Not that this would present a problem for Detroit considering what has happened to its other industries.
No, the solution lies elsewhere. And since I’ve always believed that uncertain times call for intellectually suspect and overblown measures, I’m pretty sure I hit upon the perfect plan. I am calling for Lou Whitaker to step out of retirement and once again man second base. Of course there will be naysayers against my “Draft Lou” campaign but those are the same people who say that it was a bad idea to put a banker in charge of regulating the banking industry. That worked out all right in the end so why shouldn’t this? Come back, Lou! Let’s see some of that 1984 magic all over again.