For the past few days we have all seen some great tributes to the great Mr. Padre, Tony Gwynn. He will definitely be missed but I feel a lot of the tributes are overlooking one thing. His impact at the amateur level.
As we all know now, and many may not have known before, Gwynn was the head coach of the San Diego State University Aztecs. It was here that he made a profound impact on, not only the game, but on the lives of young men. SDSU may not have reached the powerhouse status of some other California schools, but it made great strides while he was at the helm. He led them to the NCAA tournament three times (2009, 2013, 2014). It was the first time they reached the postseason since 1991.
Gwynn’s love of baseball was something that was simply fun to watch. As a guy who grew up not watching much Padre baseball, he was always one I loved, but disliked seeing because he was so good, watching play my favorite team the Atlanta Braves.
When I picture Gwynn I see two things. First of all, I see him lining a baseball into the left-centerfield gap for a stand up double. He was such a great hitter and used all the field so well. I always wondered how many home runs he would have hit if he just decided to load up and pull the ball more. But that wasn’t him. Secondly, I remember well him with Ted Williams at the 1999 All-Star Game in Boston. That was one of the great moments in baseball history during my lifetime and probably will never be matched.
I do not want to get into an argument about how great a hitter Tony Gwynn was. He was great. Or if he was better than this player or that player. Gwynn had one of the best swings I’ve ever seen and was simply an amazing hitter for anyone’s generation. His numbers speak for themselves. That is where I will leave that.
If you have a few minutes I highly recommend you checking out the MLB video of the Padres tribute. It was a touching moment and I loved that they included the Aztecs in the tribute, even his Aztec jersey in the dugout. You can watch it here.
Over at Friarhood.com you can purchase a t-shirt in honor of Tony Gwynn. They have two very cool shirts with proceeds going to a charity. They do great work over there covering the Padres. Below is the graphic on one of the shirts.