Phillies outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. shared special bond with father
Tony Gwynn Jr. is a vocal doppelganger for his father, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn.
“Whenever anyone calls the house and I pick up and they ask for Tony, I say, ‘which one,” Gwynn Jr. said.
Gwynn, a legendary San Diego Padre passed away at 54 today, according to major league baseball.
Gwynn was one of the greatest hitters of all-time, who retired after the 2001 season with a .338 batting average and a NL record 8 batting titles.
The lionized figure, who was known as ‘Mr. Padre,’ had undergone surgery for cancer of the mouth and salivary glands. The Los Angeles native believed the cancer was due to dipping tobacco for many years.
Tony Gwynn Jr. waxed about his father during the Phillies last homestand.
“My dad’s my best friend,” Gwynn Jr. said. “It was incredible growing up with someone like him. I have so many great memories from my childhood. I was at the ballpark with him as much as possible in San Diego. But I have some special memories going to the All Star game with him. I remember going to the 1998 All-Star game (in Denver). I remember walking into the National League clubhouse and it was like looking at the knights of the round table. You had Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds, my dad, Trevor Hoffman and they were all talking trash and having fun. It was a blast. Nobody talked more trash than Barry Bonds and perhaps deservedly so. Experiencing something like that is something every kid should experience. A big reason I was so crazy about baseball was having a dad like mine and experiencing the clubhouse.”
Gwynn Jr.’s brother Chris also played major league baseball. However, neither son could match what their father accomplished. Few ballplayers were ever on the level of Gwynn, who possessed a sweet left-handed swing.
“Nobody ever hit like my dad,” Gwynn Jr. said.
While living in the age of Sportscenter and the ubiquity of PEDS, Gwynn avoided the juice and he eschewed the big home run swing in favor line drives. He was also never tempted to leave the small-market Padres, who with the exception of pennant winning squads in 1984 and 1998, were mostly lackluster.
Gwynn passed on free agency and opted instead to sign team-friendly deals.
“It was about quality of life,”Gwynn Jr. said. “It was always about San Diego for my dad. For a few more million, it didn’t make sense for him to move someplace else. He was happy there. That makes my dad so different than most guys in his position.”
The Phillies announced Monday afternoon that Gwynn Jr. had been placed on the bereavement list. He was replaced by Double-A outfielder Aaron Altherr who makes his first appearance in the big leagues.