Baseball is a family affair for retired Air Force general

awoolen@macon.comApril 16, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- Hank Winner was coached by one of the best in Major League Baseball history.

In 1953, Robert Moses “Lefty” Grove was the coach for Winner’s Little League team. The Hall of Famer had 300 wins in his career and gave Winner some advice he carries with him to this day.

“His big thing was first throw strikes,” Winner said.

Winner, a retired Air Force major general, got his start coaching in 1965, training his son, Scott Winner, in T-ball. He said he’s missed some time over the years with military assignments but has been coaching nearly 50 years.

Hank Winner spent 38 years in the Air Force, but before that he played baseball in college and was selected to play for the minor league Washington Senators.

“But I got a letter from Uncle Sam,” Winner said, which ended his baseball career as a player.

This year, Hank Winner is managing grandson Kory Winner’s minor league Yankees team at Warner Robins American Little League.

It is a family affair with Kory’s older brother, Kody Winner, helping as the team’s pitching coach. Kody played on the Georgia Little League championship baseball team in 2012. The brothers’ dad, Air Force Col. Scott Winner, also helps coach.

Thursday night was Kory’s first game back after breaking his leg. While part of the family was on the field, Hank Winner’s wife -- Barbara Winner, whom he’s been married to for 51 years -- updated the scoreboard.

“If Barbara didn’t support me, I couldn’t have done it,” Hank Winner said of his long hours at the baseball diamonds.

Kory and Kody’s older sister, Katyln Winner, who is a senior at Veterans High School, just signed a softball scholarship to East Georgia College. When Katyln, now 18 years old, was ready for T-ball, she reminded her grandfather about his promise to coach her.

“He retired (from the Air Force) a few weeks later,” Scott Winner said.

Hank and Barbara Winner attend all of their grandchildren’s games, which is a hefty schedule between Veterans softball, travel ball and WRALL.

For most of the Yankees, who are 9-10 years old, baseball isn’t about winning titles -- though some players in the dugout disagreed after making some errors on the field against the Red Sox on Thursday night under the lights.

The coaches reminded the young team they had many more years ahead of them to worry about losing one game.

“You’re going to lose a whole lot more,” Hank Winner said.

Though the Winners are a competitive family, they also understand the importance of the players having a good time while they are on the field.

“The kids are learning and having a lot of fun,” Hank Winner said.

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