Have you ever had one of those days, when all the news you get is just not good? Today is one of those days for me.
One of my best friends, Gina, sent me a message this morning that after a very quick but hard battle, her mom, Rita, passed away yesterday from lung cancer. I have had Gina and her family on my mind constantly for the last few weeks. I never met Rita, but I have corresponded with her and from what I knew she was a great lady. It is a sad day for their family and the greater world to have lost a truly great person.
So with that on my mind, I then learn that my favorite baseball player, perhaps athlete, passed away. RIP Tony Gwynn.
Anyone that has known me for any length of time knows that I love baseball. And more importantly, I love the San Diego Padres. This is not always a popular thing here in Northern California. I have blogged about football. And I do love football now, but that is a newer love in my life. One that I can thank my husband for. But baseball for me has been a lifelong love.
I grew up in a baseball household. My grandfather was a life long St. Louis Cardinals fan. He passed that fandom on to my brother. And I will always hold a special place in my heart for the Cards. I loved watching the Baseball Bunch TV show and that San Diego Chicken was amazing. This is not where my love of the Padres comes from however. I was an A’s fan as a kid. They were a Northern CA team, it was the team to follow. Okay there is the San Francisco Giants too, but that never happened for me… Thank goodness.
When I was in the 6th (maybe 7th) grade, there was a boy that I liked. It was a school girl crush; the feeling was not mutual. But at that time, my parents were heavily involved in the local little league, being on the board for many years. So basically, most nights were spent at the ball park. Awesome for me, because that boy was there. And that particular year, that boy was on the Padres team. So I started being aware of the Padres. It was later that summer I was watching the Home Run Derby, and there was this amazing hitter- Tony Gwynn. I was in awe. Here was this guy that made home runs look easy. Not to mention that he was joking and smiling the whole time. I never looked back. The Padres were my team and Tony was my favorite player.
When I met my husband, it was a total and happy coincidence that he too was a Padres fan. One of the first things that told me he might be a keeper. Ed and I have been to several Padres games together now, in San Francisco, Seattle and in San Diego. I sent a wedding invitation to Tony Gwynn, when we got married, hoping that he might send a note back to us. Stranger things have happened, right?
In 2005, we took a tour of PetCo Park when we were in San Diego. The tour guide said that Tony Gwynn has many times been at the stadium before a game and was a very nice man who would always take the time to meet the fans. I prayed that would be the case that day. I even joked that if we ran into him, Ed and I would have our picture taken with him and I would blow it up to be the art work that hung above or couch. Sadly, this did not happen but it was a nice thought that day.
So today, I sit here sadder than I ever imagined I would be about the death of someone famous. Maybe it is sad because to me, Tony Gwynn was part of my growing up. They say not to have sports figures as your heroes, but I would definitely count Tony Gwynn as one of mine.
There are few players that stick with one team their entire career. Sure he could have made more money somewhere else, but he didn’t leave. A career than lasted nearly 20 years (1982-2001). His career that ended with a lifetime .338 batting average and 3,141 hits. In 19 seasons, his average never dropped below .309. This during the steroid scandals too. I am not a sports writer, or a stats person but this is impressive no matter who your team is.
I recall watching the 2007 Hall of Fame induction ceremony and actually crying. I will make it to Cooperstown someday, and I know that first place I will go.
So, I heartbrokenly say good-bye #19. Thank you for being so important in baseball and to my life. I am proud to have been a fan. And thank you for even more to love in the game of baseball. There will never be another player like you.