Slugger Greg Vaughn was born in Sacramento, California and excelled on the diamond from a young age. He starred at Kennedy High School before taking his powerful bat to the University of Miami and becoming a cornerstone at ‘The U’ during his time in South Florida.
Vaughn was drafted in the fourth round of the 1984 MLB Amateur draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. A four time All-Star, he spent time with five teams over the course of his 15- year MLB career. The 1998 Silver Slugger Award winner was one of the most feared power hitters in the game during his prime, mashing over 350 home runs while driving in over 1,000 runs during his career.
The retired Big Leaguer is the founder of Vaughn’s Valley Foundation, an organization launched to channel resources into providing awareness and funding to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes, which Vaughn’s son Cory was stricken with at a young age. The foundation also offers life changing experiences for the youth in the Sacramento area.
The multi-dimensional retiree is also heavily involved in the wine industry, partnering with a group to start GV23 Wines, which is Vaughn’s own brand and label of wine.
We talked with him about his belief in proper penmanship, his impressive baseball collection and the pride in seeing his son on baseball cards.
Tony Reid-You were a standout in high school, at the University of Miami and in the Majors, when was the first time you were asked for your signature by a fan?
Greg Vaughn-It was at the University of Miami. We were number one in the country and we had a really good team. The kids came out and they were ‘Canes fans. That’s when ‘The U’ really was ‘The U’ in football and baseball. It started there. When you are a minor leaguer and a first round pick and you are doing well, it never stops. I still get them to this day. The first time it makes you feel like a superstar.
TR-What is the most memorable fan interaction you’ve had?
GV-There are a lot of them, especially playing on the outfield. Some of the stuff is off the wall and there is stuff that is said that shouldn’t be allowed to be said, period. Then there are people that are funny. When my son was old enough to come to the field he couldn’t believe all the stuff that fans would say. Sometimes you are in the outfield and you are in between pitches and someone will say something funny I would turn around and give them a thumbs up. That was a good one. There are some big rivalries. If I’m a Padre and we are playing the Dodgers we will be cordial but they won’t have nice things to say about me. That’s just the way it is. You hear some good ones. You hear some bad ones and then you hear some, with kids around, that people should not be saying.
TR-You are the man in the arena and fans want your attention, whether it’s in a positive fashion or they go about it in poor taste. It seems to just be about being acknowledged to the athlete. Is that fair to say?
GV– Oh, yeah it is. Now everything is done online. When I played you would see the same guy with 32 cards when you would come out of the game for four days in a row. I’d see him one day and the next day and the next day and the next day. You know he is selling them.
I remember in Boston when I was facing Pedro (Martinez) I struck out three times. I was running back in from left field fans would be yelling at me. I told them it was going to be a long day and that Pedro has his good stuff. They would appreciate things like that. I told them we weren’t giving up. We were still going to win the game. You play to win. The same game after I was taking to the Boston fans, we actually won 1-0. He said ‘Hey, you are a class act.’ I told him thank you, we were just fighting for our lives.
TR– You have a cool signature. How much pride do you take in signing your autograph?
GV– That just how I write my name. I don’t think I take any pride in it. For me, school was always first in our household. Even in class, we didn’t have computers, we weren’t able to type our letters. We had to have good penmanship. If the teachers couldn’t read it you would have to rewrite it or there was a phone call made to your house. It was all bad news from there so I just learned that you might as well just do it right the first time. The last thing I want to do is wrote a paper twice.
TR-Your rookie cards appeared in nearly every product in 1990 including Bowman, Donruss, Fleer, Leaf, Topps Upper Deck and down the line. When was the first time you saw yourself on a trading card?
GV-I was like ‘Wow! I’ve made it!’ Back then you still got gum out of the packs. Us, being fans as kids, we collected cards. We used to put them in our spokes of our bike tires to make noise then you feel like an idiot you were when you found out how much they are worth. My dad was a big card collector. I remember him filing his cards and keeping them in pristine shape. He would dust them off and do all that stuff. When I became a pro, if a player asked me to sign something I asked them to do the same. I thought it was an honor. I tried not to bother anybody. You are talking about the likes of Nolan Ryan and he signs something for you. You are talking about Kirby Puckett, Rickey Henderson, Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield, all of those guys. It means something to you. I have a lot of balls signed. I will be able to pass those on.
TR–For your dad to be a collector to have his son appear on his own cards had to be an out of this world joy. What did he think when he could start collecting cards of his son?
GV-Well, he probably thanked my mom because she was the athlete. I know he was proud. In those days men didn’t show a lot of emotion. They never wanted us to be satisfied. They never wanted it to be like we made it, you are content and that’s the end of the story. Keep striving. I know my dad was proud because he would have me sign cards to give to his friends and kids. I know he was proud of me. It had to be pretty awesome to have his son on a baseball card.
TR– Do you have memorabilia saved from your career?
GV-I have special moments. I was fortunate from the year I hit 50 home runs I got back every ball except two of them. I hit two home runs in Game 1 of the World Series that year, so there is a spot for every ball.