June 14, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Former San Diego Padres outfielderTony Gwynn
waives during a pre game ceremony to honor the members of the 1998 National League Championship team before a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Tony Gwynn was one of the first baseball players I can recall getting to see live as he played in the first MLB game I ever attended.
In fact, the reason I remember seeing Gwynn is because I was so excited to see the former NL batting champion, as he was and always will be one of my “baseball heroes.”
Growing up watching baseball in the ’90s was a blessing and a curse. A curse because of all of the scandals with PEDs, but a blessing because I was able to watch players like Gwynn play the sport the right way.
Gwynn passed away Monday at the age of 54.
In high school, I was just given a random number (I wasn’t what you’d call the best player), and it was No. 19. I remember this vividly … the very first player I thought of was Tony Gwynn, as he also wore the No. 19. Having that number was special because of all the respect I had for Gwynn, and to this day, 13 years later after first getting that number, it is still special to me in a way.
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The Chicago White Sox released a statement on the passing of Gwynn, as White Sox President Ken Williams said of Gwynn:
"“My heart is heavy as I think about this man and his gregarious personality and his generous spirit. He was a Hall of Fame player, yes, but more importantly and significantly, he was a Hall of Fame person — gone too soon. The White Sox extend our thoughts and prayers to his family and friends.”"
Tony Gwynn, Jr. Tweeted about his father Monday:
In 20 MLB seasons, all with the Padres, Gwynn finished with a career batting average of .338 with 3,141 hits with a career on-base percentage of .388. Gwynn batted over .300 in each season from 1983-2001. But he was more than just having legendary numbers … he always seemed like an all-around great person. He played the game with a smile, and you could always tell he wanted to be at the ball park.
He was the best hitter of his generation, and he’ll be missed.
I was lucky Gwynn played in the first MLB game I attended live, and for that, I thank Mr. Gwynn.