Winfield says he intends to earn his big Yankee salary

Outfielder Dave Winfield, who spent his first eight years in baseball with the National League San Diego Padres, was telling reporters about his first few weeks in the American League with the New York Yankees.

Winfield, as you probably already know, became a free agent at the end of last season and promptly signed a 10-year contract with the Yankees that, with its built-in cost-of-living raises, could bring Dave as much as $23 million.

In fact, San Diego baseball writer Phil Collier claims that Dave's N.Y. contract will pay him $170 an hour, 24 hours a day, for the next 10 years. Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, however, reportedly included a buy-out clause in the contract that Steinbrenner can take advantage of after seven years.

"The only thing hard so far has been learning a whole new set of opposing pitchers and what they throw in clutch situations," said Winfield, who has been hitting well over .300. But my theory has always been that if you're a hitter, no pitcher is going to stop you for very long, new league or no new league.

"I think that because I'm taller than most players [Dave is 6 ft. 7 in. and 220 pounds], and have had some years when I've hit 25 or more home runs, that most people have acquired a wrong impression about me," he continued. "I'm really a line-drive hitter who sometimes will have a well-hit ball climb out of the park on him. But basically I'm the kind who hits for average and gets his kicks from driving in runners who are already on base."

Although Winfield has been haunted by the news media at every road stop the Yankees have made this season, so far he has no serious complaints.

"There has been a lot of focus on me because of the size of my contract and because of the team I signed with, and I anticipated this," Dave explained. "In fact, it started in spring training and probably won't let up until we've played in every city in the league at least once.

"But it's not what I would call pressure," he continued. "Pressure is something you put on yourself and this is entirely different, a distraction. Having reporters constantly wanting interviews does take time away from some of the things you'd like to work on before the game.But once you step into the batter's box, it's just you and the pitcher, and everything else is forgotten."

Winfield is a remarkable athlete. After the Padres signed him out of the University of Minnesota in 1973, he never played a day in the minor leagues, and started his career by hitting safely in his first six major league games.

Winfield was also drafted by the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League and two professional basketball teams, the NBA Atlanta Hawks and the ABA Utah Stars. As a senior with the Gophers, he batted over .400 and also had a pitching record of 13-1.

"I have never been a player who set goals for himself and I'm not going to start now that I'm with the Yankees," Dave said. "What I'm going to do is the very best I can at all times and not worry about what people think.

"I guess maybe there are some fans who resent the kind of money I'm getting," he continued. "That's their business and something I can't control. But if I give every game everything I've got physically and mentally, then I don't see where there is going to be any room for criticism."

Asked why he was so anxious to get away from the Padres, Winfield replied: "I didn't like the 30 percent turnover in personnel every year in San Diego. It was like a constant rebuilding program that never seemed to get anywhere. You would be out of the permanent race early and still have all those games to play, and it just made everything seem so long. I went with the Yankees because invariably they are contenders."

One of the reasons new Yankees man contenders."

One of the reasons new Yankee Manin his lineup is because of Dave's constants , meaning that he usually makes contact, seldom strikes out, and can be counted on to do most things right.

For anyoe how expects a bumping match between Dave's real but controlled ego and that of long-time Yankee headline grabber and home-run king Reggie Jackson, no such turbulence between the tow is pat to tlael apt to take place.

If Jackson is the straw that stirs the drink, a phrase Reggie once used to describe himself, Dave has the kind of personality that soothers rather than burns.

As a line-drive hitter as well as a right-hander in a home park (Yankee Stadium) that favors left-handed power, Winfield will not be competing with Jackson for long-ball honors on the Yankees. Nor will he provide the kind of inflammatory quotes that Reggie likes to make on occasion. Instead Dave will give even more balance to a team that won 103 games last year before getting whipsawed by Kansas City in the playoffs.

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