Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

June 25, 2014

Remembering Gwynn: One time in June 1997 ...

Corsicana —

My childhood baseball heroes did not play during my childhood, strange as that may sound. A lifelong baseball fan, I grew up idolizing the likes of Richie Zisk and Robin Yount and Ben Oglivie.
But they’re not my favorites of all time. I have three players I consider my all-time favorites, and one — Nomar Garciaparra — is four years younger than me. Another will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. Greg Maddux, 48, is now a Texas Rangers consultant.
And then there is the late Tony Gwynn, who passed away last week at 54. His death numbed me. Probably a lot like the passing of Mantle and DiMaggio and Musial did for fans of yesteryear.
I’ve never met “No-mah” or Maddux, but in the summer of 1997, I had the pleasure of spending a glorious hour and a half with Gwynn.
During that season, Major League Baseball introduced interleague play. It meant teams from the åSenior Circuit would be coming to Arlington, and first up was Gwynn and his Padres. As the lead high school and amateur baseball writer for the Arlington Morning News, I hatched an idea to get Gwynn to offer his words of wisdom to young hitters.
Like a good reporter, I called the Padres ahead of time, and scheduled a one-on-one. Based on the newspaper that hangs in my office, it must have been Friday, June 13, 1997. I remember the time being 2 o’clock.å
Gwynn strolled in, be-bopping a little under his Walkman headphones. Black jeans, a black striped polo and white sneakers. A regular guy, he appeared. What struck me most was his build. It was very similar to mine, maybe 5-9, with perhaps a little bit more weight. 
“And this guy has won batting titles?,” I thought to myself.
We make eye contact, I say, “Hey Tony, did the Padres tell you I was coming?” Suddenly, he goes from nice guy to Grumpy Cat. The be-bopping stops, he lips snarl. But above all of the fame and fortune and batting titles and spotlight, Tony Gwynn was a gentleman.

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