A Baseball Hall of Famer told local young people how to live a hall-of-fame life Friday night in Aberdeen.
The secret, Dave Winfield told about 500 people at the annual Boys and Girls Club of Aberdeen Area annual awards banquet at the Ramkota Inn Convention Center, isn't collecting a career's worth of awards. Instead, it's in giving back to those who helped you.
Winfield, 61, said he never would have made it to the major leagues if not for the support and guidance of people he met when he was young. Those who provide that help — parents, coaches, friends, people who organize youth programs — are vital, he said.
There are five keys, Winfield said, to becoming a success at your trade or in life:
Start by finding your God-given ability.
Know the rules, techniques, laws and fundamentals of what you're doing. It doesn't matter whether it's baseball or banking.
Physical fitness, especially important for a professional athlete.
While he didn't cite it specifically, it's clear that hard work also makes Winfield's list. He said it takes 10,000 hours of practice to get good at whatever it is you do.
"It doesn't come easy. It doesn't come quick. It's not going to be given to you," he said.
"The only job you start out at the top (at) is digging a well," Winfield said.
His advice to kids is that they read, travel and get to know people as many people as possible. Reading leads to learning and expands the mind, he said.
"Fill it up with good stuff, and all it will do is keep you informed," he said.
Traveling also helps an individual's growth, Winfield said. He played for the Fairbanks-based Alaska Goldpanners in 1971 and 1972 in the Alaska Baseball League, an independent summer minor league.
When it comes to meeting people, Winfield said he tries to treat folks right.
"You never know who you'll meet (or) what opportunity will pop up as you move forward in life," he said.
"You never accomplish anything in life by yourself. You don't make it by yourself," he said. "You're on the shoulders of someone else."
That's why, Winfield said, after he began his pro baseball career, he started a scholarship program in his native St. Paul, Minn., a foundation for philanthropic work and a program in San Diego that allowed underprivileged kids to attend Padres games. Giving back is an important part of life, he said.
At the end of his talk, Winfield fielded questions from audience members and seemingly enjoyed the chance to share stories in a casual, small-town atmosphere. While he grew up in Minnesota, he said this is his first trip to South Dakota. He now lives in Los Angeles.
Winfield said he only does about a half dozen speaking engagements a year. This trip was organized last year, he said. He also told the audience that he was going to make an donation to the Aberdeen club, drawing a round of applause.
Michael Herman, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club, said that the agency has collected about $400,000 of a needed $5 million to build a new club in Aberdeen in the years to come. The new, 25,000-square-foot facility will allow the club to serve 300 kids a day instead of a maximum of about 160 now, he said.
The club has 501 members now — 106 more than a year ago, Herman said, and annual membership fees have remained at $20 for several years.
He said 675 volunteers helped the club last year, 450 of whom helped sell concessions during the Brown County Fair. The club, which has three full-time and 16 part-time staffers, gets 25 percent of its operational income from the concessions, Herman said.
A 12-time All-Star and member of the 1992 World Series champion Toronto Blue Jays, Winfield noted that he was born on a historic baseball day — Oct. 3, 1951. That's the day Bobby Thompson hit the so-called "Shot Heard ’Round The World," a home run that propelled his New York Giants to the National League pennant and sparked the famous, "The Giants win the pennant!" radio call by Russ Hodges.
That, combined with his name — the word win followed by the word field — makes him wonder if his baseball career was kismet.
"Perhaps it was destiny. I don't know," he said.
Winfield played baseball and basketball at the University of Minnesota and was drafted by four professional sports teams. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001, the first year he was eligible. He's one of only seven major leaguers with more than 3,000 hits and 450 home runs.
Winfield now works for ESPN and the Padres. He said he will go to Padres spring training in Arizona in a few weeks, mostly to talk to players in the organization. He said the Padres will give them all of the support and help they need as long as they stay away from drugs.
A number of fans dressed in Twins gear attended the banquet to hear what Winfield had to say and try and get an autograph. They included David Lout, 25, of Aberdeen, who was wearing a Twins jersey.
"(I) came out to see what he has to say, meet him, get a photo," Lout said before the banquet started. "(I) just hope that he sends a good message to the kids — follow your dreams and anything's possible."
At the end of the banquet, a bronze sculpture of Winfield by Aberdeen artist Benjamin Victor was auctioned off for $1,700. A Winfield-autographed Minnesota Twins jersey went for $525, a Padres jersey with his signature for $350.
A number of club members and staffers were presented awards during the banquet. Those honored included:
Youth of the year: Shanae Wagemann.
Leadership award: Landon Kopecky.
Sports, fitness and recreation awards: Brock Martin and Miranda Thornblad.
Cultural arts awards: Alex Rudebusch and Anjali Kathikar.
Educational excellence awards: Aaron Walberg and Vanessa Wagemann.
Game rooms awards: Carter Rombs and Emma Pierce.
Sportsmanship awards: Landon Kjer and Brittany DeGroot.
Staff member of the year: Tristen Waller.
Volunteer of the year: Jen Schaunaman.