Breven’s Blog: Reflecting on the Life of Tony Gwynn

Tony Gwynn swinging a bat

Sunday was not just Father’s Day for Tony Gwynn Jr. That day marked five years since the passing of his Dad, Anthony Keith Gwynn, a legend in San Diego.

Gwynn came to SDSU on an unpredictable basketball scholarship, but once his basketball coach let him play baseball, he would be lights out both on the hardwood and on the diamond. The Long Beach native was a star point guard and still hold the records for most assists in a season (221), assists per game (8.2) and in a career (590). In Gwynn’s final game as an Aztec basketball player, he would have a career game, posting 16 points and 16 assists against New Mexico in 1981.

Although he came to SDSU as a basketball player at Montezuma Mesa, he still wanted to contribute to the Aztec baseball team. When he got the OK to play baseball from former SDSU basketball head coach Tim Vezie in his sophomore year, he became a two-time All-American. He would go on to play with teammates that would go on to play or partake some role in Major League Baseball (MLB), including MLB umpire Kerwin Danley (Gwynn’s roommate at SDSU), former pitcher and Colorado Rockies Manager Bud Black, former player and coach Bobby Meacham, and former player and two-time World Series Champion Al Newman. Gwynn received Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors in both basketball and baseball, making him the only athlete in WAC history to accomplish that feat.

Before professional sports were a televised event, Gwynn was able to accomplish things that only few people have ever achieved.

In June of 1981, Gwynn would get drafted by the then-San Diego Clippers (now Los Angeles Clippers) and the San Diego Padres on the same day. Gwynn would choose to stay in San Diego and play for the Padres. He would make his debut one year later in July of 1982 and from that moment on, he would wear the brown and gold, the blue and orange and the pinstripes up until his final season in 2001.

For 20 seasons, Gwynn was known for his hitting, but during his first slump he started a trend – video. In 1983, he was in a slump and asked his wife to get a camera to film his at-bats. From then on, he would never have a slump like what he went through and it was the beginning of video in the game of baseball. With Gwynn initiating the aspect of film in the sport (in terms of looking back and studying the video), people would call him “Captain Video.” Gwynn would finish his 1983 season with a batting average .309 and for the next 18 years of his career, he would never hit below .300. In 1984, it was a great year for the Padres and Gwynn himself. He would go to his first All-Star Game, win his first batting title and go to his first World Series.

As Gwynn would continue to go to All-Star Games, he would also win batting titles, Silver Sluggers and receive Gold Gloves.

When the 1990s came around, he would continue to get better by talking to retired players, such as Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Ted Williams. After his conversations with both of them, his best year were on the horizon. From 1994 to 1997, he led the National League in hits three times, won four batting titles, went to four All-Star games and only struck out 79 times in those four years. And in those four years, he had a slash line of .371 (batting average)/.415 (on base percentage)/.511 (slugging percentage), an ideal spot for hitters, the iconic .300/.400/.500 line. His batting average would also include getting a chance at hitting .400 in 1994, the closest anyone has accomplished that feat since Williams hit .406 in 1941. Gwynn would finish with a .394 batting average in a shortened-season due to a strike.

In 1998, Gwynn and Padres would have another magical run in the postseason, like what they through in 1984.

They would win 98 games and the division, beat future Hall of Famers like Randy Johnson from the Houston Astros, who won 102 games in the NL Division Series. Then, they outlasted the Hall of Fame trio of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz from the Atlanta Braves, who won 106 games to get to the World Series and face a New York Yankees team that won 114 games during the regular season. At the end of the 2001 season, Gwynn would call it a career as he would finish with a .338 lifetime batting average, record 3,141 hits, go to 15 All-Star games, win five Gold Gloves, seven Silver Sluggers, and eight batting titles. Another thing he also won was respect; respect from players, coaches, fans and the media from around Major League Baseball because of the humbleness and person that he was, more than a baseball player.

Gwynn’s favorite memory came from the postseason and that was hitting a home run at (old) Yankee Stadium in Game One of the World Series. He cared about his family; he wanted to stay in America’s Finest City and not be traded or take a new contract in a different city. He spent his career in one town for an entire career, was a part of two World Series teams and will forever known as “Mr. Padre.” After Gwynn finished his baseball career, he would continue being on the field by coming back to Montezuma Mesa to be the head coach of the Aztec baseball team beginning in 2002.

In 2007, he would be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. by getting 97.6% of the ballot.

Gwynn will forever be known as “Mr. Padre” and an Aztec For Life. Ever since he came to San Diego in 1977, he never wanted to leave the city and the fans never wanted him to leave. It was the bond that he was able to create with players, coaches, fans and the media that made him stand out. June 16 has been a day to never forget Tony Gwynn for Padre fans, Aztec fans, and MLB fans that admired him.

Written by: Breven Honda

Breven’s Sports Blog: Padres Working Towards Recovery

Padres shortstop Tatis Jr. crouching down

The San Diego Padres look to improve their offensive game despite a minor setback early on in the season.

The hometown team, who entered the week at 30-29 and are only two games back of the second wild-card spot, are looking to heat up in the final stretch before the All-Star Break.

Today, we are going to dive into a couple of Padres topics.

Injuries

For the past five weeks, the Padres have been playing without their shortstop phenom and No. 2 prospect across MLB, Fernando Tatis Jr. Fortunately, their backup shortstop – Manny Machado – has played great since his departure.

Before the team’s top prospect went down, the combination between Machado and Tatis Jr. filling the left side of the infield saw a glimpse into what the next 10-plus years could look like for baseball in San Diego.

That glimpse would turn to a pause after the Padres lost to the Nationals, 7-6 in 10 innings on April 28. Tatis Jr. went down after overstretching for a ball at second base and pulled a hamstring

With hamstring injuries, the timing is uncertain as to when a player will return, but it all depends on the muscle itself. Some take a couple of days; some take a month or two.

However, some good news came this past weekend for Tatis Jr. and the Padres.

Tatis Jr. began his rehab assignment this past Monday in Double-A Amarillo (Texas) in hopes to return to the team by the end of the homestand or early next week.

In that game he would go 1-for-3 with two walks. That hit would be an infield single that he legged out. Despite having a throwing error, he would steal a base for the Amarillo Sod Poodles in their 8-5 loss against the Frisco RoughRiders.

As a result of baseball’s No. 2 prospect going down, Machado moved over to shortstop and the backups at third base have not been as consistent.

The Padres have used a duo between San Diego State Alum Ty France and San Diego-product via Valhalla High School Greg Garcia to fill the gap to cover the hot corner. Although France and Garcia have seen playing time at the hot corner, the consistency has not been there.

Tatis Jr. posted a batting average of .300, hit six home runs and also had six stolen bases, with most of those coming in the leadoff spot before he got injured.

Not only does this affect the hot corner, but it also has an effect on the leadoff spot. Since Tatis Jr. went down, the combination of Wil Myers, Garcia, and Ian Kinsler plays a key hitting role in the top spot. Garcia secure the most time in the leadoff spot, but the same theme of inconsistency transpires.

Besides Tatis Jr. working back from his injury, others are also starting their rehabilitation assignments. Both outfielders Jose Pirela and Franchy Cordero started their rehab assignments last week in Triple-A El Paso and are close to making a comeback.

Also, catcher Francisco Mejia and outfielder Alex Dickerson completed their rehab assignments last week and have been activated, playing in El Paso.

The most notable player completing his rehabilitation assignments is pitcher Dinelson Lamet who is coming off Tommy John surgery a couple days before Opening Day last season. Lamet is on schedule of the rehab process, which is usually around 12-16 months and, if all goes well, is on pace to rejoin the Padres at the end of the month.

Offense

Despite the injury to Tatis Jr., the Padres have been able to hit the ball well. Although the Padres are 14-15 since he went down, the bats have been staying alive.

First baseman Eric Hosmer has stepped up over the past month. After hitting under .200 in the season’s first few weeks, he has brought his batting average up to .300 last week that includes posting a 10-game hitting streak, which ended Sunday.

In the month of May, Hosmer went 36-for-105 with a .343 batting average, scored 17 times, and had 15 RBIs.

The Padres are ninth in all of baseball (and fourth in the National League) with 89 home runs (as of June 4). Outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Franmil Reyes, who have each recorded 17 home runs so far, have kept the offense alive.

Everyday, there has been at least one player to keep the offense going.

As the calendar gets into the heart of June, the next couple of weeks will determine whether or not the Padres will be playoff contenders as well as buyers or sellers (or stand pat) as the Trade Deadline looms in July. The Padres could even look at getting a starting pitcher such as free agent Dallas Keuchel or Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer to bolster a young rotation.

Written by: Breven Honda
Featured Image from: The San Diego Union-Tribune