SDSU Baseball Honors “Mr. Padre”

Eight months ago, I wrote a blog about the late Tony Gwynn and what he meant to San Diego. 

Whatever people called him – Mr. Padre, Aztec For Life, Hall of Famer, Coach, or Dad – Gwynn cared about what he did and who he interacted with.   

The San Diego State baseball program honored their late head coach with a baseball tournament in his name back in 2015 and this past weekend, they hosted their fifth annual Tony Gwynn Legacy.

Head coach Mark Martinez said the tournament gives programs across the United States the opportunity to come to “America’s Finest City” and learn about Coach Gwynn.

“We celebrate Tony’s legacy and this is a focal point for this weekend, for great programs throughout the country to play in San Diego,” Martinez said in a press conference Friday. “Our baseball program celebrates Tony’s legacy every single day. It’s a turbo charge to what we do every day with Tony.”

On Sunday, the Aztecs started strong with senior outfielder Mike Jarvis hitting his second home run to left field to start SDSU’s offense in the first inning. It was the San Diego native’s second leadoff home run this season.

After a couple of two-RBI singles in the third and fourth inning, the Aztecs would go on to lose, 11-5 against the Trojans on the final day of the Tony Gwynn Legacy Tournament.

The Trojans responded in the top of the fifth when USC junior outfielder Ben Ramirez, who played with juniors Casey Schmitt and Brian Leonhardt at Eastlake High School in San Diego, hit a bases-clearing triple to the left field corner to cap off a five-run inning. 

Overall, the Aztecs had four errors defensively and 10 of the 11 runs were unearned for Aztec pitching. 

Head coach Mark Martinez said the team did not make the right choices but realizes they can regroup.

“We made some bad decisions defensively,” Martinez said. “The biggest thing for me is we have to manage success and manage adversity and hard times.”

Despite defensive miscues, sophomore pitcher Aaron Eden started and went 4 and two-thirds innings. He cruised through the first four innings, allowing just a hit and a walk.

“(I was) getting ahead, using my fastball to my advantage,” Eden said. “That’s my best pitch so that helped me.”

Although SDSU lost this game, they won twice in this weekend’s Tony Gwynn Legacy.

It is the third consecutive year SDSU has won at least two games during the Tony Gwynn Legacy Tournament.

SDSU defeated Iowa 4-1 on Friday and beat Nebraska on Saturday 4-2.

Leonhardt, who also pitched an inning against USC, said it was a good weekend, but a better week with SDSU’s midweek victory over Cal State Fullerton.

“We won the weekend,” Leonhardt said. “If someone told us going into the weekend, ‘you’re going to win two of three,’ we are going to look back on we won two out of three and three out of four.”  

Leonhardt said exposing Gwynn’s legacy to teams across the country is positive and ensures that SDSU will continue to promote who Tony Gwynn was – a hard worker – even after he passed away.

“I believe if he was here, he’d be proud of us,” Leonhardt said. “Although we had a tough loss, we battled hard to get two gritty wins Friday and Saturday. It’s great to come out and play for him every day.”

The Aztecs hit the road Tuesday to UC Irvine before coming home to play the 2018 National Champions, Oregon State Beavers.

Written by: Breven Honda

Breven’s Blog: 2019 Summer Recap

Panoramic view of Petco Park in East Village with a sunset backdrop

What a long and eventful summer it has been for San Diego’s sports teams. Let’s run it back.

It all began with San Diego State pole vaulter Bonnie Draxler finishing her Aztec career on a high note with a silver medal at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. 

Another Aztec made headlines the following week. Men’s Basketball player Jalen McDaniels was drafted in the second round by the Charlotte Hornets.

Former Aztec Kawhi Leonard won his second NBA championship and NBA Finals MVP with the Toronto Raptors as they beat the Golden State Warriors in six games. One month later, he joined Paul George and signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. 

The San Diego Padres continued to build hype with the duo of Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. on the left side of the infield. Tatis Jr. impressed fans, coaches, and media personnel with his acrobatic plays both at shortstop and on the base paths. However, the Padres lost Tatis Jr. to injury last week and he might be done for the season. Padres’ fans and members of the organization liked the aggressiveness and tenacity he has had, thus far in 2019. Also, first baseman Eric Hosmer has continued to find his stroke and is hoping to finish the season strong. He is currently second in the National League among first baseman with 139 hits (as of Aug. 19).

The Padres traded away a clubhouse guy in Franmil Reyes for Cincinnati Reds’ top prospect Taylor Trammel before the July 31 trade deadline. The Padres’ fans will always love you, Franmil.  

Even Major League Baseball’s famous rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees took the field for the first game ever played in Europe. I appreciate how professional sports (i.e. MLB, NFL, NBA, etc) are expanding internationally as people are becoming more accepting of American sports.

In addition, the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates brought back memories to their Little League days by playing in Williamsport, Pa.

The MLB All-Star Game took place in Cleveland and Padres’ closer Kirby Yates represented the team. Although the National League did not win, Yates had the opportunity to hang out with some friends and enjoy a game with the best players in the sport.

Back to the Aztecs, men’s basketball player Nathan Mensah needs surgery to heal an injured hand. He is expected to make a full recovery before the season begins in November. 

SDSU Football is in full swing with their first game on Aug. 31 against Weber State. They have moved to a spread offense, so the formations; however, what stays the same are the plays. The spread will help the lineman know who to block faster, especially for the running backs like Juwan Washington and Chase Jasmin. 

In the world of golf, former Aztec Xander Schauffele qualified to play in one of the sport’s most historic events, the President’s Cup. He has continued to play exceptional heading into the final tournament of the year, the PGA Tour Championship, this weekend. He finished eighth in the FedEx Cup Standings. 

Although this summer is finally coming to an end, the major sports teams did not disappoint and kept fans on their toes. It was fun and I can’t wait for what the 2019-20 school year has to offer.

Written by: Breven Honda

Breven’s Blog: Aztec Hall of Fame Class Announced

Image of the SDSU Sports Hall of Fame

This past week, the San Diego State Athletic Department announced the five newest members of the Aztec Hall of Fame.

Let’s take a closer at these former Aztecs

First is former baseball head coach, Jim Dietz.

Dietz coached the Aztec baseball team for 31 seasons and by retirement, finished with 1,231 wins and a .620 winning percentage, good for seventh nationally among active Division I coaches in 2002. Some players Dietz coached include 1996 Golden Spikes Award winner, Travis Lee; Tony Gwynn, Bud Black, Mark Grace, and Bobby Meacham. In 1979, he guided the team to its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

Second is former men’s basketball player Xavier Thames.

Thames graduated in 2014 and in his senior season, he led the team to a Mountain West regular-season conference championship and an NCAA Tournament Appearance, reaching all the way to the Sweet 16.

During the 2013-14 campaign, Thames was the Mountain West Player of the year, an AP All-American Honorable mention, an NABC First-Team All-District Team, a two-time National Player of the Week and a Bob Cousy Award Finalist

A transfer from Washington State, he played 97 games, recorded 1,232 points and 316 assists. Thames was part of three NCAA Tournament teams and in his senior season, he once had a streak of 190 minutes without turning over the ball.

Third is former track star Shanieka Thomas (Ricketts), who graduated in 2014.

Thomas was a three-time triple jump national championship, a two-time runner-up in the triple jump and a three-time United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association West Region Athlete of the Year. In the Conference, she was 2013 Mountain West Female Athlete of the Year and a nine-time MWW champion for both indoor and outdoor track. 

She currently holds the SDSU record for indoor and outdoor triple jump. 

Fourth is former women’s basketball player Jené Morris.

Morris graduated in 2010 and led SDSU to its first-ever Sweet 16 appearance at the 2010 NCAA Tournament. 

She averaged 15.8 points per game and ranks fifth on the career points list with 1,499. 

Morris became the first lady Aztec to hear her name during the WNBA Draft by the Indiana Fever as the 11th pick in 2010.  In addition, she became the first Aztec player to get at least 100 steals in a season twice.   

Last is former men’s soccer goalie Tally Hall, who graduated in 2006.

Hall was a two-time All-American and a two-time first-team NSCAA All-Far West Region member. He also holds single-season records in save percentage (88.9%, which led the country in 2005) and 0.49 goals-against average. Hall was part of two NCAA Tournament teams in 2005 and in 2006.

After his time as an Aztec, he played 10 years in Major League Soccer, including eight with the Houston Dynamo and a 2011 All-Star.

The five former Aztecs will be officially inducted into greatness during Hall of Fame weekend, October 11-12.

Written by: Breven Honda

Breven’s Blog: Tony Gwynn’s Early August Successes and Defeats

Tony Gwynn swings and hits a baseball

Early August meant a lot to Mr. Padre.

August 6 was his mother’s birthday and on that same day 26 years ago, he recorded his 2,000 career hit at Qualcomm Stadium. Six years later to the day in 1999, he would record his 3,000-hit in Montreal.

But 25 years ago, the 1994 Major League Baseball season was good and bad.

The strike ended the season (including the Montreal Expos’ franchise and Michael Jordan’s baseball career), and to add more fuel to the fire, it was the first time since 1904 that the World Series was not played. The National League, however, won the All-Star Game for the first time in six years (Gwynn scored the winning run).

In addition, the hitters did not allow the season to go into a full disappointment. For example, Gwynn had a season for the ages, as he attempted to achieve a feat that has not been accomplished since 1941 – have a .400 batting average by the final game.

The strike stopped Gwynn from accomplishing a historic feat.

August 11, 1994, was the final day of the season due to the strike and Gwynn finished six points behind a mark that has inevitably stood since San Diegan Ted Williams hit. 406 for the Boston Red Sox, 78 years ago. He missed .400 by just three hits. 

Before Gwynn passed away in 2014, the question arose: Would he have hit .400 in ’94?

With (supposedly) six weeks left in the regular season, Padres fans and those who followed Gwynn (media personnel, MLB executives, etc.) knew that nothing would stop him from achieving that feat. 

Nothing but a strike that would end the season early.  

Gwynn finished the 1994 season with a .394 batting average, 165 hits, 35 doubles, 79 runs, and (only) 19 strikeouts. He had an on-base percentage of .454 and a slugging percentage of .568. He also finished seventh in the National League MVP voting but received one of his seven Silver Sluggers that season.

The key stat that stands out, besides the batting average, is the strikeouts.

Just 19 strikeouts. Today, 19 strikeouts for a player comes within a few weeks. But Tony Gwynn was that good to put the ball in play and not go down by way of the ‘K’. 

The Hall of Famer only struck 434 times in his career and struck out three times only once during his career. Some players get to 434 strikeouts in 2.5 seasons. Never once did Gwynn strikeout to the arguably-best pitcher of his generation, Greg Maddux, which Gwynn hit .429 off him.

So the question is not just, “What if Tony Gwynn hit .400 in 1994,” but it is, “Could you imagine the season Tony Gwynn could have ended up with had the entire season been played?”

Written by: Breven Honda