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State of the U Talks College World Series & More with Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield

We caught up with the former CWS, Yankees, Padres, Twins, and Blue Jays legend, and discussed his work with the Capital One Cup, the field in Omaha, his career past and present, and more.

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Dave Winfield, the former Major League outfielder and Hall of Famer, has been touring to talk about the Capital One Cup, a yearly event that awards the best collegiate athletic programs in the country a combined $400,000 in academic scholarships. This week he found himself in Omaha, ahead of the College World Series. I was lucky enough to get to speak with him, both about his sponsorship of this event, and of his thoughts about the CWS, and much much more.

Full Q&A below:

SOTU: Please tell us how you got involved in The Capital One Cup, and for those readers out there who are not familiar with what it is all about, please tell us more about it?

Dave Winfield: Having been a star in multiple sports combined with Capital One's interest with connecting with Colleges and Universities and supporting athletic and academic excellence, we came together.  They created this challenge called "The Capital One Cup" and essentially for Division I schools it calculates a certain amount of points based on achievements in 20 Men's Sports and 19 Women's Sports.  For example a National Champion will earn 60 points.  Right now in the Men's side Ohio State is in the lead but Virginia being in the College World Series has a great chance to overtake them.  On the Women's side, Stanford is in the lead.  Florida is hot on the trail because of their recent excellent in track and field.

At the end of the year, the school with the most points wins--the Men's program receives $200,000, and the Women's program gets $200,000, so $400,000 is at stake for athletic programs, so that can push a lot of bragging rights, and not only for players, but for the schools.   Not to mention a trip to the ESPY's at the end of the year in Los Angeles is also on the line.

SOTU: The University is closing in on the Top 10 on the Men's side, and I do believe a win would put them in the Top 10?

Dave Winfield: Absolutely.  And it's interesting,  this tournament in Omaha is so much different than when I played. There are so many more people coming out to watch and support these kids and do things like check out the Capital One Fan Fest. Omaha is the center of youth baseball.  It's a great experience.

SOTU:  Speaking of Omaha,  you had some great experiences back as a College star with Minnesota in 1973. Can you give me your fondest memory of that experience.

Dave Winfield:  We didn't win, we vied for the championship and lost to the eventual champion, USC.  I ended up being the Most Valuable Player, but we were eliminated and sent packing.  But 10 days later I was signed to the San Diego Padres and I started my professional career.  But I still have fond memories here. It was a great door and helped open up things for me.  Omaha has been great for me.

SOTU:  You were a three sport athlete in younger days.  Did you ever consider playing basketball or football professionally?

Dave Winfield:  Well in college I only played hoops and baseball, but the Minnesota Vikings watched me closely. And they said, "this big old dude who can run and has good hands, let's see if we can convince him to play tight end for us,"  And I said "nah, I don't think so."  I like watching football but I ended up making the right choice for my career, and I was blessed to play 22 years of professional baseball.  I had no knee surgeries when I played, only after (Winfield laughs).   I had no concussions or any of that stuff.  I am a big advocate of baseball.

SOTU:  Who do you think is the favorite to win the CWS this year?  How do you think the Miami Hurricanes will fair?

Dave Winfield: I honestly haven't analyzed the 'Canes that much.  Miami is one of the few team that I haven't seen play this year, but I know they are very good.  The coach over Virginia is a friend, Brian O'Connor, so I like them. I also like last year's champion Vanderbilt a lot.  Those two and Cal State Fullerton, because those guys play hard despite the fact they had an up and down season.  But there's a lot of challenges for everyone. You could  have the best team, but really it's who plays best at the right time.  Only 8 teams in it and they are the 8 best in the country.

SOTU:  What is the most important factor for success at this time of year?

Dave Winfield: It varies for game to game.  But pitching is always premium. Also, players emerge as stars and as legends from the most unlikely places.  There are plenty of guys in these big games that you end up saying "Who? That guy?"   So you never know.  Getting that unlikely hero to emerge is always big.  That and good pitching will always give you a good chance to win.

SOTU:  We recently had a very unfortunate situation with  fan being struck and seriously injured by a broken bat in Boston. What do you think MLB needs to do if anything to protect its' fans more?

Dave Winfield:  My thoughts are this.  You don't need to put webbing or netting from the backstop all the way down the lines. That's too much.  There are always going to be incidents, unfortunately.  I remember when I first met my wife, she always used to watch me in the outfield. And I would come running in and say, "Watch the game, keep your eye on the ball, not me."    Some of the things baseball has improved on though, include the bats.  The bats used to just splinter, now they have certain guidelines which have improved. Some of the ball parks have put up a little more netting. But really one incident, as scary as it was, has us looking at this more than maybe we should.  I am for changes but not necessarily wholesale changes.

SOTU:  A lots been made about the lack of African American population in baseball.  What do you think we need to do to get not just more young African Americans involved, but more Americans in general?

Dave Winfield:  A couple of quick things, because we can talk a long time about this, and the new commissioner of baseball recently talked about this. One of the most key things they need to do is work more closely with the Player's Association and get the players both former and present, who are the best teachers of the game,  to work with kids around the country. And not just the urban programs and rbi academies, but all over.  It's like branches of a tree, if you want to strengthen that tree, you have to have the roots.   if you look at an article I just wrote for, I touch upon this some as well.  Also if you increase scholarships for baseball, instead of half or quarter of a scholarship like many programs offer, more kids would migrate to it for educational purposes.  Not to mention the parents would support it more, given the cost of education these days.

SOTU:  As a Yankees fan,  I have to ask.   Best and worst part of playing in New York?

Dave Winfield: Well the worst was the difficulties with George Steinbrenner, but the good part was that I enjoyed the competition.  And you had to come their ready to play everyday and get your uniform dirty. Some people are made for it, and I think it was in my blood to play for them.  Because if you are going to play the game, play it hard and play it right and get some recognition for it.

SOTU: Last question,  who wins the CWS?

Dave Winfield;   Hard to say.  I would say flip a coin, but there are no 8 sided coins. I have no idea, and I am sticking with that (laughs).

We can't thank the great Dave Winfield enough for letting us catch up with him.

Be sure to check out the CWS from Omaha where the Miami Hurricanes hope to capture their 5th National Championship.  And please keep an eye on the Capital One Cup as well.

Capital one Cup Standings:

See how your school stacks up. Standings are updated after official results are posted for every NCAA Championship. Download the full standings list here.

Men's Cup Standings

1. Ohio State 93.5
2. Virginia 89
3. Denver 72
4. Duke 71
5. Notre Dame 65
5. UCLA 65
7. Oregon 61
8. North Dakota State 60
9. Providence 50
10. TCU 43
10. USC 43

Women's Cup Standings

1. Stanford 136.5
2. Florida 122
3. Penn State 105
4. Maryland 90
5. North Carolina 81
6. Connecticut 80
7. Florida State 78
8. UCLA 58
9. Virginia 53
10. Cal 44
11. Syracuse 42