What can I say," Al Frohman is saying. "He's my son." Frohman is maybe 5'7" and Jewish, a New Yorker transplanted—nay converted—to Southern California. His alleged offspring stands a little way off on a rise overlooking rich brown valley land north of San Diego. He is 6'6", black and a native of St. Paul, who has embraced and been embraced by his adopted city, San Diego. "It looks good, Al," he calls over to Frohman. "Very good."
"The land runs from the road back there all the way to the water, Dave," says Frohman. "I think it'll work."
Dave Winfield, star outfielder of the San Diego Padres, nods in agreement and rejoins Frohman, who is his representative in numerous enterprises and a father in spirit, if not in fact.
"This idea is too good to let die," Winfield says, arranging his long frame inside his silver Mercedes 450 SEL. "I'm persistent. I'm going to do it, and if I can't do it all at once, I'll do it in portions. But I'll do it."
Frohman turns to a stranger. "Dave has a dream," he says confidentially.
Winfield's dream is Superstar Village, a sports and health resort for "all the family at affordable prices," where famous professional athletes from various sports will be experts-in-residence. Prominent physicians and nutritionists will also be on hand to lead the guests along the straight and narrow path to what the prospective founder defines as "optimal health." Winfield envisions a complex situated on some 200 acres of land very much like that which he scouted with Frohman this day. The cost has been estimated at $40 million, money Winfield, with help from Frohman and other associates, would personally raise. It is a dream that may sound like pie in the sky, but so have various other Winfield projects—virtually all of them of a charitable nature—and he has brought each to fruition. Winfield is just now emerging as the superstar on the diamond he has long considered himself to be, but he has been one off it for some time.
For the past three seasons he has provided free tickets for underprivileged childen to the Winfield Pavilion in the rightfield bleachers at San Diego Stadium. By the end of this season some 14,000 youngsters will have gone to ball games through his generosity. Last year Winfield, a bachelor, entertained 15,000 children at a gigantic party before the All-Star Game in San Diego. He will toss an even bigger one the day before this year's game in Seattle, busing his staff of volunteers up from San Diego to help serve the refreshments. Each year he provides $1,000 scholarships to a boy and a girl student-athlete in St. Paul. He is active in alumni affairs at his alma mater, the University of Minnesota, and he helps promote projects of the Urban League and the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau. And he is planning, under the auspices of the David M. Winfield Foundation for Underprivileged Children, to hold Winfield Pavilion Days for children in New York and Los Angeles. Any money he gets for endorsements or commercials is donated to the foundation to help finance other such philanthropic ventures.
"When I first signed to play major league baseball, I said I would allocate a certain number of dollars to community affairs," Winfield says. "Baseball has been good to me. I want to give something back to draw the various elements of the game—players, fans, owners—together. The image of the pro athlete—greedy, self-serving, interested only in himself—has gotten out of hand. A lot of us are working to dispel that image. We're not all like that."
Maybe not, but not many have gone as far as Winfield has in the bad-image-dispelling league. And lest he be dismissed as a simple do-gooder, a saintly soul with bowed head and lowered voice, it should be noted that there is another Winfield, a brash young man of 27 whose assessment of his own prowess on the ball field borders on braggadocio. "He's a junior Reggie Jackson," says teammate Jerry Turner. Except that he's having a better year than Jackson, or almost anyone else around. Winfield ranks among the National League's top 10 in every important offensive category. His batting average of .330 is fifth in the league. He is sixth in hits with 95, second in runs with 43, seventh in homers with 15 and third in runs batted in with 55. These statistics are even more remarkable when it is considered that Winfield, who now bats third in the Padre order, is normally preceded at the plate by Ozzie Smith, a .181 hitter, and followed by Turner, whose .273 average is the next highest on the team. As a result, Winfield seldom sees a good pitch.
That he should have so many RBIs for a team that rarely has runners in scoring position is a measure of his capacity for making the most of his meager opportunities. Manager Roger Craig moved Winfield from cleanup to third in the order late in May when it was discovered he was leading off innings about 35% of the time. He instantly responded with 26 RBIs in 33 games from the time of the switch through last week. Winfield batted in 97 runs last year and 92 the year before and has his best chance yet of reaching 100 this year. But he rails at the injustice of lesser batsmen benefiting from more productive batting orders. "Butch Hobson can drive in 100 runs batting ninth," he laments. "I can't do it hitting fourth."