Hit and Run

Catching up with former all-star outfielder Randy Winn ’96

The legend of Steve Nash ’96 often begins with his unlikely origin. Santa Clara was the only Division I school to offer him a scholarship. But just down Dick Davey’s bench, teammate Randy Winn ’96 was on an even less likely path to stardom. The Danville native arrived at SCU with no scholarships and walked on to both basketball and baseball teams.

Baseball won out. And after getting drafted by the Marlins in 1995, the speedy outfielder embarked on a pro career that spanned 13 seasons in the majors. After hanging up his glove in 2011, the former all-star remains busy in the game as a TV analyst, Giants special assistant, and president of the Baseball Assistance Team, a Major League charity charged with taking care of the greater baseball family.

We caught up with the recent inductee into the West Coast Conference’s Hall of Honor to talk about giving back, staying involved, and advising his old basketball teammate.

A 13-year major league career would seemingly set you up to kick back for life, but you’re very active in differing aspects of the game, including as a TV analyst.

My original plan was to get as far away from baseball as humanly possible. I didn’t have any plans of coaching or staying in the game.

So, for a little bit, I did just that: spending time with family—and not traveling or living in hotels. That time away was really key. I figured out when I was away from the game that I really liked the game. I didn’t just play it because I was good enough to play. I really enjoyed the game, talking about the game, being intellectual about the game, and that’s what TV and broadcasting allow me to do.

What’s your role as a special assistant with the Giants?

Basically, I’m all over the place. I’ll be down at spring training. I’ll travel around the minor leagues. I’ll show up in the clubhouse.

I think [Giants manager Bruce Bochy] summed it up best: “If you see something, say something.” So that could be like an outfielder saying, “Hey, Randy, what did you look at when you were trying to steal off a left-handed pitcher?” or one of the young kids asking, “What did you do to get out of a slump?”

Some of it’s off-the-field stuff. “What’s it like to be a professional player?” The mentoring and giving back is what I love about being down on the field.

You played your longest spell for the Giants, leaving for the Yankees just before San Francisco’s run of World Series titles. Was it hard to miss out on that?

It was hard leaving the Giants because I had been there for five years and I developed relationships. And playing at home, it was like playing in Little League—my parents were there, my in-laws were there, my brother was there.

But I’m not mad about the way things played out. I played in some great cities.

Overall, not making the playoffs—it is what is. You go out and you play as hard as you can, and those things take care of themselves.

You’re also president of the Baseball Assistance Team, which gives grants to people within baseball who are in need. How did that come about?

I became a board member in 2002, about the time I felt more or less established in the big leagues. When I first got involved, a lot of the people we were helping were people who played the game before I played it, who didn’t make the kind of money I was fortunate enough to make, who didn’t have the health benefits I was fortunate enough to have, but who built the game into what it was.

Some of those guys were getting older, they were having hospital stays and illnesses and funerals that they weren’t able to afford and that hit me in my heart. This is a way I can give back and show my appreciation for those pioneers who built the game up.

Retirement is notoriously hard for athletes. You seem to have found a healthy path. What has been your philosophy in dealing with it?

You always think you can keep playing, that’s the mentality of an athlete. Sometimes you don’t feel that you’re done, and the game tells you you’re done—that’s kind of what happened to me. But when I was very, very young, Fred McGriff took me under his wing as a rookie and told me, “Hey, this game is going to go on with or without you.”

At the time I didn’t really understand it. But over the years, I started to look at the people retiring or just leaving the game. And that was something I came to grips with very early in my career: Enjoy the game, love the game, play the game hard, but the game isn’t everything.

Did you ever give Nash advice on what to expect in retirement?

We talked, and I had this conversation with a lot of people who retired after me. You’re competitive, you’re driven, you’ve got goals, and one day you wake up and don’t have the sport you had for a long time. You really need to have something else in your life that gets your juices going.

But Steve has always been a guy who had a lot of stuff going on—even when he was still playing, he owned a piece of a soccer team. He’s involved with the Canadian Olympic Team, he’s involved in film and commercials. I never thought he’d have a problem with retirement.

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