Fallen Legend Leaves Cyclones Manager with Great Memories
On June 16th, the baseball world lost both a great player and a great man in Tony Gwynn. His untimely death sent a shockwave through all of baseball. Since his passing on Monday, many have reflected on Tony’s life and career, giving him the great respect he deserves.
More than two decades ago, Brooklyn Cyclones manager Tom Gamboa had the pleasure of working with Gwynn while the two were part of the San Diego Padres organization. One of Gamboa’s best memories of Gwynn came from his very first day with the team.
At about 6:30 in the morning out in the desert, Gamboa was on his way to the Padres’ stadium in Yuma, AZ to get ready for an early morning staff meeting. When he arrived in the parking lot, he peered out and saw that someone had beat him to the ballpark, and it was a player. That player was Gwynn, who was in the batting cage taking cuts on a tee.
“Tony was a huge advocate of the batting tee,” said Gamboa. “He would work on that batting tee at keeping his hands inside the ball, he was the most adept ever at being able to take almost any pitch as a left handed hitter and hit between the third baseman and shortstop, his bat control was amazing.”
“I remember when I drove in the parking lot, I said ‘Oh my God,’ he was in the midst of winning eight batting titles in a row. A lot of people think it just happens, but the work ethic was behind it.”
Gamboa not only admired Gwynn’s work ethic, but also his character. He commends Tony for staying with the Padres through his entire career and not testing free agency like most players do nowadays.
Another of Gamboa’s favorite Gwynn memories came when the two were no longer working together. It was in 2002 following Gamboa’s attack on the field during his time with the Kansas City Royals. Following the incident, there was a lot of media speculation as to whether or not Gamboa provoked the two men. At the time, Gwynn was working with ESPN and spoke on Gamboa’s behalf on-air, addressing the incident.
“I got phone calls from my friends telling me that Tony was working part-time for ESPN, and on whatever show he was on, I didn’t see it, they said, he said Tom Gamboa worked with us in San Diego with us for four years and I know how professional he is wand what a classy guy he is, and he did nothing to bring it on himself,” said Gamboa. “I wish I got a copy of it for myself because coming from Tony Gwynn it’s a real compliment.”
There is no doubt that Gwynn was a great player, over the course of his career, he earned 15 All-Star Game appearances, 8 batting titles, 7 Silver Slugger Awards, 5 Gold Glove Awards. He won over the hearts of many in San Diego and continued to impact the lives of many until his last days. All in all, he was a great player, but most of all a great man.
“As good a player as he was, his bubbling personality and jovialness and just his character, was even better than he was as a player,” said Gamboa. “It’s a loss for everyone.”
--Christopher Dela Rosa