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Tony Gwynn Jr. gets standing ovation from Phillies fans (Video)

Tony-Gwynn-JrTony Gwynn Jr. returned to the Philadelphia Phillies with a heavy heart on Tuesday night. The 31-year-old came on in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter in what was his first at-bat since he left the team to mourn the death of his father. He received a warm reception.

The Phillies fans who were still in attendance with their team leading 7-4 gave Gwynn Jr. a standing ovation. He took a few extra seconds and a big deep breath before stepping into the box.

“Needless to say, it was pretty awesome,” Gwynn said after the game, via Todd Zolecki of MLB.com. “Made the at-bat a little more difficult, had to fight the emotion and the tears and stuff like that. But that’s why guys who play here like to play here. When things are going well or regardless of whether they’re going bad or good, I think the fans stay behind us. Much appreciated by the Gwynn family.”

The Phillies are 35-41 and currently in last place in the NL East. Some moments are far more important than the game itself.

Stephen Strasburg also quit chewing tobacco after Tony Gwynn’s death

davey-johnson-stephen-strasburg

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Addison Reed isn’t the only one of Tony Gwynn’s former players who was given a much-needed wakeup call after Mr. Padre lost his battle with cancer. Stephen Strasburg, who also played for Gwynn at San Diego State, is giving up smokeless tobacco, too.

“I think it’s a disgusting habit, looking back on it,” Strasburg said earlier this week, via ESPN.com. “I was pretty naive when I started. Just doing it here and there, I didn’t think it was going to be such an addiction. … Bottom line is, I want to be around for my family. This is something that can affect people the rest of your life. [Chewing tobacco is] so prevalent in this game. It’s something we all kind of grew up doing.”

Strasburg said his decision to quit had a lot to do with his infant daughter, who was born this past offseason.

Gwynn was diagnosed with cancer of the salivary gland back in 2010. He also had cancerous tumors removed from the inside of his cheek in 2012. The Hall of Famer said publicly that he believed his cancer was caused by years of using smokeless tobacco.

It’s a shame that it takes something like the death of a baseball legend and tremendous person to bring about a positive change in the lives of others. That said, we’re glad to hear the dangers of smokeless tobacco are getting the recognition they deserve.

Addison Reed quits smokeless tobacco after Tony Gwynn’s death

Addison-ReedArizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Addison Reed recently quit using smokeless tobacco, and it took the loss of a baseball legend to inspire him to kick the unhealthy habit. On Saturday, Reed told reporters that he threw out all of his cans of dip and swore off tobacco the day Tony Gwynn lost his battle with cancer.

“It’s one of those things where I’ve done it for so long it’s just become a habit, a really bad habit,” Reed said, per MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. “It was something I always told myself I would quit, like next month, and the next thing you know it’s been six or seven years.

“It started to get bad my first year in pro ball and it’s one of those things where I’ve always done it. I’d come to the field and throw one in and have multiple ones. I’d have one on the ride home, one on the way to the field and it was one of those things where I always had one with me.”

Reed played for Gwynn at San Diego State University. Gwynn, who had cancerous tumors removed from his salivary glands and the inside of his cheek, had said publicly that he believed numerous years of smokeless tobacco use caused his cancer. That was enough to make Reed want to change his lifestyle, though he said it hasn’t been easy.

“These five days have been kind of rough, but I think it’s something that’s doable,” he explained. “I don’t have any cans in my locker, so as long as I don’t go and buy any, I should be all right.”

As for the type of person Gwynn was, Reed echoed the sentiments of so many others who were touched by “Mr. Padre” in some way.

“Just kind of being in the room with him was unreal,” Reed explained. “I was kind of sitting there like, ‘Wow, that’s Tony Gwynn over there. I’m going to play for him right now?’ It was a no-brainer.”

Hopefully Reed can fight off the addiction. Watching a great man die too young is an unfriendly reminder of how understated the dangers of smokeless tobacco can be.

Tony Gwynn once drove to Foot Locker to buy bat boys new sneakers

Tony-Gwynn-PadresStories about Tony Gwynn’s generosity have not stopped pouring in since he passed away on Monday, and we don’t expect them to any time soon. Gwynn was a rare combination of supreme talent and kindheartedness. Few stories encapsulate that better than the one written by a former San Diego Padres bat boy for Deadspin on Wednesday.

The entire piece, written by David Johnson, is a must-read. Johnson idolized Gywnn throughout his childhood and was lucky enough to earn a job as the Padres bat boy when he was 16 in 1991. His story contains small asides about Gwynn’s sense of humor and how his laughter lit up a room. He described Tony as an incredibly down-to-earth guy who breaks all of the stereotypes typically associated with rich athletes.

But one particular story that Johnson told stuck out above the rest. We’ll let him tell it:

The last homestand of the season, Tony’s official Nike catalog showed up in our locker one day, with a note in his familiar handwriting. “Pick a pair,” the note said. We each happily circled a pair with the pen he provided. Later that week, before a game, the shoes appeared in our locker, along with a check for $500 for each of us. I didn’t even care about the money itself — THIS WAS A HANDWRITTEN CHECK FROM TONY GWYNN. ADDRESSED TO ME. (I think I waited five months to cash that damn check. When I did, the bank teller’s eyes got big and she looked down at the check, up at me, down at the check.)

A few games after the shoes appeared, the equipment manager, our boss, told us: “You know, Tony drove down to Foot Locker himself and bought those shoes for you guys. You probably thought he had them delivered or something. But he went down there. That’s what he does.”

Gwynn was already a superstar in 1991. He had won four batting titles by then, been selected to five All-Star teams and was on his way to winning his fifth Gold Glove. He had the money, resources and standing within the Padres organization to have any equipment manager or clubhouse assistant pick the shoes up for him, but he wanted to be more personal.

Again, you should read Johnson’s entire story. Oftentimes when athletes pass away, they’re given a hero’s farewell because of what they accomplished on the field. In Gwynn’s case, it seems obvious that his Hall of Fame career was much less important than the type of person he was.

Also see: The best, must-read stories about Tony Gwynn

Tigers honor Tony Gwynn with his initials in the ‘5.5 hole’

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Teams across Major League Baseball paid tribute to Tony Gwynn on Monday night after the Hall of Famer lost his battle with cancer. Gwynn was one of the most well-liked players in MLB history, and almost every player, fan, coach and anyone else connected to the game felt the sting of his passing on some level. The Detroit Tigers honored Gwynn in a very unique way.

The Tigers wrote Gwynn’s initials and the number 5.5 on the back edge of the infield dirt between third base and shortstop. It was a reference to what Gwynn called the “5.5 hole,” and it’s a spot on the field where he picked up a ton of hits.

Gwynn was such a good hitter that he could pretty much place the ball wherever he wanted. If he got a pitch that was low and outside, he’d just slap it through the “5.5 hole” and get on base. In reality, you could put Gwynn’s initials on any spot in the field where no fielder was standing. That was his favorite place to hit it.

We have more must-read stories about the San Diego Padres legend here.

H/T For the Win

The best, must-read stories about Tony Gwynn

Tony Gwynn Padres

Tony Gwynn dying on Monday was a huge blow to the Padres franchise, Major League Baseball, the city of San Diego, and sports fans as a whole. Tony was one of the best hitters of all time, and he had a special personality to match his incredible talent.

As a way of honoring and preserving the legacy of the man we all loved so much, below are some of the best stories about Tony Gwynn as a ballplayer.

We don’t have all the best stories about Tony, so if you know of any, please please please notify us via email or by leaving a comment on this post. Our aim is to make this as complete as possible.

Below are some of the best tales about Tony Gwynn that all baseball fans and TG lovers will adore.

Longtime Padres player and coach Tim Flannery recalls how Tony Gwynn called his shot in a rain-postponed game against the Reds.

via UT San Diego

[Flannery] recalled a road game at Cincinnati that was hit by a deluge of rain, a game the Reds were winning 2-0 when Gwynn stepped up with two runners on base.

For all the good it would do, a left-hander was summoned from the Cincy bullpen, whereupon the rain resumed in buckets before he could deliver a pitch to the plate. The game was suspended at that point, to be resumed at that exact point the next day.

“Because of all the rain delays, it’s now about 11:30 at night,” said Flannery. “Tony and I are walking back up the tunnel at Riverfront. He said, “Hey, Flan, I want you to be ready tomorrow, because this guy’s gonna throw me a first-pitch slider, I’m gonna hit it into the left-center gap, it’s gonna score two and we’re gonna be tied.’

“Sure enough, next day, first-pitch-slider, boom, left-center field, both runners socre, tie game. Tony looks at me and smiles. I’ll guarantee you this: Before he went to bed that night, that lefty didn’t know he was gonna throw that. But Tony knew.

“Amazing. Just an amazing, amazing player.”

How Tony Gwynn once beat Omar Daal and his little ****** slider

Via ESPN’s Buster Olney

So if you asked him a question about an at-bat, or something that he was doing at the plate, Tony would pull you into a side room and run back the video and narrate what was on the screen for you. Once, he mashed a pivotal hit against the Dodgers, and afterward, he explained to me exactly what he had said to a teammate in the on-deck circle — that Omar Daal would try to beat him with his little (expletive) slider and then he would turn on it and drive it into the gap.

Tony Gwynn won 8 batting titles in his career, but the story of how he beat out Will Clark over the last weekend of the season in 1989 might be the best.

Gwynn finished at .336 and Clark at .333. Tony won it by getting 3 hits in the final game of the season, while Clark had 1. Their two teams faced each other that weekend.

via LA Times

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Greg Maddux once had an awesome Tony Gwynn quote

Tony-Gwynn-PadresThe baseball world was mourning the passing of one of its most beloved players on Monday, as San Diego Padres legend Tony Gwynn lost his battle with cancer at the age of 54. Gwynn, a Hall of Famer and 15-time All Star, is one of the greatest pure hitters to ever play the game. Greg Maddux got to see that first hand.

In fact, Maddux saw Gwynn more than anyone. The former Atlanta Braves hurler faced Gwynn 107 times during their overlapping Hall-of-Fame careers. Maddux didn’t strike Gwynn out a single time — NOT ONCE.

And Maddux knew it. On Monday, ESPN’s Ethan Strauss reminded us about a fantastic quote that Maddux once had about Gwynn that summed up his sensational career. The righthander was discussing how changing speeds and having control are far more important than velocity, because no hitter can tell the exact speed of a pitch. Well, except one…

“You just can’t do it,” Maddux said. “Sometimes hitters can pick up differences in spin. They can identify pitchers if there are different release points or if a curveball starts with an upward hump as it leaves the pitcher’s hand. But if a pitcher can change speeds, every hitter is helpless, limited by human vision.

“Except for that (expletive) Tony Gwynn.”

If that’s not respect, I don’t know what it.

Gwynn struck out 434 times in 10,232 plate appearances. Yeah, you read that right. He struck out 15 times during the entire 1995 season — a year in which he batted .368. That season came in the middle of a five-year stretch where he batted .369.

We could spend all day listing Gwynn’s mind-boggling career achievements. He was that good. Maddux summed it up perfectly.

H/T SI Hot Clicks