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Winfield making most of opportunity
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07/11/2004 6:05 PM ET
Winfield making most of opportunity
Hall of Famer sees role as unique for former team
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Dave Winfield played the first eight seasons of his career for the Padres. (AP photo)
HOUSTON -- Some former players hold ceremonial positions with Major League clubs. Not Dave Winfield, who is making the most of his opportunity as an executive vice president with the San Diego Padres, the franchise that drafted him in 1973.

Winfield, who officially joined the team's front office not long after he went into the Hall of Fame in 2001 wearing a Padres cap, has been given a wide berth to define his role. And Winfield has been in the forefront of devising programs to diversify the Padres' fan base as the team begins the second half of its first season at downtown PETCO Park.

"I've kind of defined it, looking at some areas I can help us with," said Winfield, who was in town to play in the Legends and Celebrity softball game during All-Star Sunday activities at Minute Maid Park. "That's the way I wanted to do it when I came on board. And it seems to have worked out good for the club."

Winfield played the first eight seasons of his 22-year career with the Padres and went on to star for five other teams. He left San Diego after the 1980 season and signed as a free agent with the Yankees, for whom he had a tumultuous tenure that ended when he was traded to the Angels during the 1990 season.

Winfield and the Yankees ultimately reconciled after a difficult period with George Steinbrenner, their principal owner. In his career, Winfield went on to bat .283 with 465 homers and 3,110 hits. Playing with Toronto in 1992, Winfield's 11th-inning double drove in the deciding runs in Game 6 of the World Series as the Blue Jays defeated the Braves in six games to win their first championship.

At 52, Winfield and his family live in the Los Angeles area, but that doesn't stop him from "working practically every day" in his capacity with the Padres, he said.

Winfield is responsible for community outreach that includes baseball clinics and programs to sell tickets within the minority community. He has donned his old uniform and coached some players during Spring Training. And most recently, he created and helped stage the Padres' tribute to former stars of the Negro Leagues that included the official retirement of Jackie Robinson's cherished No. 42 at PETCO Park.

The event, which was held before a recent Padres home game, was emotional for many people, bringing some members of the minority community to tears as they took part in the ceremony. Winfield now envisions a tribute to the Negro Leagues as part of the annual fabric of the Padres' season.

"That event wasn't even on the calendar when the season started and, I'm telling you, it took everybody's hands to get it done," Winfield said. "I wanted to make sure that was something we did right and we will continue to do."

Winfield was brought back into the Padres' fold in 1995, shortly after majority owner John Moores purchased the team. After a long absence from the San Diego scene, Winfield was brought back to Qualcomm Stadium to throw out a pregame pitch and had a local Little League ballpark christened in his name. He was then asked to join the team's board of directors, prefacing his induction into the Hall of Fame as a Padre.

"My return was gradual, probably over a three-year period of time," Winfield said. "I felt comfortable with this group and ownership."

Now, he's having what anyone would want -- a major impact on the franchise.

"I'm just doing my part," he said. "There are opportunities to improve on everything that we do. I hope I contribute in areas that we hadn't thought of, that we weren't working in, and even in some the areas we were working in, just help to do it better."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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