As a boy growing up in San Diego in the 70’s and 80’s, my sports heroes were easy to name – Dan Fouts for the Chargers and Tony Gwynn for the Padres.
Number 19… Mr. Padre… Captain Video.
Going to Jack Murphy stadium (before Qualcomm) and seeing him play in that massive stadium was weird and awkward, but it was a great hitters field. Not that TGwynn needed any help with that. The purest hitter in the game. Bar none.
Looking back at those pictures of Tony in his basketball uniform, playing for SDSU. He was so skinny!! Those first years with the Padres too – especially with that giant fro. Throw in the classic Brown & Orange uniform and what was there not to love. I still believe the team should go back to those uniforms. Classic through and through.
Even though Tony never played at Petco Park, I have always felt his presence there. From images, names and memorials to the man that represented the team for 20 YEARS. For the man that played his entire career with ONE TEAM, which is unheard of in today’s “getting what is mine” mentality of today’s players. In many ways baseball is about family, and he was the epitome of a baseball man and a family man. His “can do” attitude made you strive to be a team player and help those around you to be better – as people, with their careers and in their lives.
His stats are simply amazing: 3,121 hits, .338 career batting average, eight-time National League batting champion, 15 All-Star Appearances, 19 years batting over .300 and, perhaps most amazingly, 434 strikeouts in 20 years and over 10,000 plate appearances.
Everyone talks about his accolades on the field, but the stories about his generosity and sense of humor will be the ones that stick with me through my adult life. Hearing that infectious laugh in all of the interviews he did. The engaging nature and nurturing that he did with young players. He was passionate about the National Pastime, but knew it wasn’t a pastime but a lifetime.
Even if I haven’t been as close to baseball as I had been growing up, my love for Tony and what he represented will always be with me.
– Chris Provinzano