I'm a Red Sox fan through and through. But more than that, I am a baseball fan. I love the history. I love the game. I've been known to just turn on a game even if my boys aren't playing. Because it's baseball. I can't say I know everything about every team, because I do not.
But I do know about Tony Gwynn.
Back in 2001, I was living in California. My girlfriend at the time was offered two tickets to a Dodgers game at Dodgers Stadium by her boss. I had, up to that point, never been to a Major League game. Ever. I'd been to a lot of Minor League games, but this was my first opportunity to go see a game in a big league park. I didn't care who was playing. It was baseball.
It turned out they were playing the Padres.
I can't tell you who one the game. I can't even tell you how many hits anyone in the game had. I can tell you, though, that what I saw from Tony Gwynn was impressive. It was the last season of his career and he still played the game hard every time at bat.
Gwynn was an oddity in this era of baseball. He played his entire career with the Padres. Rightfully dubbed Mr. Padre, he took hometown discounts to stay with the club. In this day and age, you almost never hear of a player doing that.
Gwynn was a hitter's hitter. He took after Ted Williams and has been the closest to being the next man after Williams to break .400 for a season. A career slash line of .338/.388/.459 does not even begin to tell the tale. Nor do impressive stats such as his having only 434 career strikeouts in 10,232 career plate appearances.
Gwynn loved to play the game. And he worked hard, going over video of each of his atbats long before that was a thing batters did. He took extra batting practice every day for fear of not being able to put up hits to help his team.
It seemed like he would always be a part of the game.
Sadly, baseball lost one of their great ambassadors of the game Monday when Tony Gwynn passed away from cancer at the age of 54. Gwynn was a Hall of Famer, a father of a Major League Baseball player and a true ambassador of the game.
We lost one of the truly great ones. And he will be missed.