FORD CITY — Josh Willingham didn’t have his Silver Slugger Award with him Monday at his foundation’s charity golf tournament.
What he did have, though, was quite a bit of fun on a sun-splashed day at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at the Shoals and the satisfaction of knowing that once again, proceeds from the tournament will help numerous children throughout the Shoals this holiday season.
And for the slugging Minnesota Twins left fielder, that’s good enough to offset a few of his wayward golf shots.
“Anytime people see something is going toward a good cause, they are eager to help, especially in this area,” said Willingham, who completed the first year of a three-year contract with the Twins. “Everybody is always receptive when they find out that all of the money is staying in this area and going to help kids who really need it. Plus, everybody loves to play golf.”
Willingham estimated Monday’s tournament, delayed by a week due to rain, raised $25,000 for the Josh Willingham Foundation. The money is targeted for a toy and coat holiday program at his local church, a shoe program that he hopes to start that will provide shoes to children in need, and other kids-related projects.
He said the $25,000 will provide much-needed assistance to those programs.
“That money can go a long way, especially in this area,” he said.
Willingham is coming off his best season in the majors, a 35-homer, 110-RBI season that culminated with the Silver Slugger Award, given to the best offensive performer at each position in each league. He didn’t have it with him at the golf tournament, though. Instead, he’ll receive the award in January when he returns to Minnesota for Twins Fest.
“Obviously, it’s a great honor,” he said. “I knew I had a chance for it, but I also had a chance to go to the All-Star Game, too, so I wasn’t banking on it.”
He also admitted there was no bonus clause in his three-year contract for winning the award.
“Just ‘hey, good job,’ ” he said, laughing.
Willingham said he is enjoying the offseason break.
“Things are good,” he said. “I’m taking a little time off and just enjoying time with the family. I’ve been relaxing, playing a little golf, doing a little deer hunting and taking the kids to school.”
He’s about to resume working out to prepare for his 10th season in the major leagues.
“I usually take a good month off and then around Thanksgiving I crank it back up, working out heavily,” he said. “I’ll start back with baseball activities in January.”
Most fans don’t realize how much of a toll the season takes on a player. It’s much more than just showing up for a game and playing nine innings each day.
“It’s such a mental and physical grind,” he said. “When it’s over, you need that time to relax and catch your breath. Your body usually tells you about the middle of August when it’s hot. You’re in game 120 and those last 40 or 50 games are tough.”
Willingham is with his fourth team with previous stops at Florida, Washington and Oakland. As seems to be the case every year, Willingham’s name has been rumored to be involved in a potential trades. Early in his career, the former Mars Hill and University of North Alabama star said he listened to the rumors. Not anymore.
“You realize you don’t have any control over it anyway,” he said.
And, it was a trade from Florida to Washington that opened the door for him to break into the starting lineup and eventually earn a lucrative contract. Now, Willingham is a nine-year major league veteran with 167 home runs, 544 RBIs and 843 hits.