In his senior year in college, Dave Winfield was a wanted man.
In 1973, Winfield, a senior at the University of Minnesota, was selected in four drafts in three different professional sports. Just weeks after being selected as the fourth overall pick in the baseball draft by the San Diego Padres, Winfield was named Most Valuable Player of the College World Series...
...In contrast to today, when drafted players often hold out for astronomical guaranteed contacts or leverage their selection to end up with the team of their choice, Winfield was anxious to make his mark in the pro ranks. After little hassle, he inked a $15,000 deal with the Padres, and negotiated a $50,000 signing bonus, most of which he invested in the stock market. His contract called for him to go directly to the big league club in 1973.
Just weeks after ending his college career, Winfield was in uniform with the Padres, a team known more for their hamburger-chain owner Ray Kroc than for winning. That first season, manager Don Zimmer kept coaches away from Winfield’s swing (they wanted to alter his “hitch” that served as Winfield’s timing mechanism) and sheltered the rookie from tough pitchers.
“They were good at keeping me out against the Tom Seaver’s and Bob Gibson’s,” Winfield recalls. “I watched and listened, and tried to learn as much as I could.”
With competition for playing time fierce on the lowly Padres, and with teammates more concerned with their own jobs than helping along a rookie, Winfield often turned to opposing players for guidance, such as Billy Williams of the Cubs and Dick Allen of the Phillies.