Tony Gwynn is San Diego Baseball

Tony Gwynn

If you grew up in Poway as I did in the 1980s or 1990s Tony Gwynn wasn't just a good player for the hometown team, he was baseball in San Diego.

The Padres, then as they were now, were usually not very good but the one thing you could count on when you took a trip down to Jack Murphy Stadium was that you were going to see one of the best hitters in baseball practice his craft.

By now nearly anyone who follows the Padres, or really baseball, knows the main accomplishments for what he is famous for; he won eight consecutive batting titles, he retired with a .338 batting average which is second only to Ted Williams among post-World War II era players and was a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Tony grew up in Long Beach and came to San Diego State to play baseball and never left. He was a big part of San Diego's only two World Series teams in 1984 and 1998 and its unimaginable that PETCO Park, and maybe even the Padres, would be here if it were not for him.

But that is not what endeared him to San Diego.

What endeared him to San Diego was that Tony wanted to be here.

Anyone that was ever around him knew what a competitor he was and how much he wanted to win. Even in retirement it annoyed him when the Padres didn't win.

But the difference between him and others that have passed through was that he wanted to win in San Diego as part of a team that would bring the first world championship home to his adopted hometown.

To go to another city and join a team that was already a winner, was never really an option. It wasn't about that. It was never about how not winning a World Series would tarnish his legacy, but that it would tarnish our legacy.

And the fans and the city always understood this. He represented all the good that people want to believe in professional athletes. He was nice, humble and wasn't someone who hit the genetic lottery. He would gladly break down what made him successful; intelligence and hard work.

He was the first player to truly embrace video technology and of all the modern players Williams, enjoyed talking baseball with him more than anyone else.

It's fitting that he went into the Hall of Fame in 2007 with the only other player whose career resembled the fairy tale one that he had, Cal Ripken.

After retiring in 2001, he took over the reins of San Diego State's baseball team while still working television broadcasts for the Padres after the college season ended.

It would be unimaginable for Padres' fans to not only ever see him in another uniform playing for the another team but even being associated with another club.

And Tony obliged them.

No one will ever see Tony Gwynn as anything other than what he was in life; baseball in San Diego.

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