By Nicholas Baltz
The death of local icon Tony Gwynn has the city of San Diego heartbroken. Although Gwynn died too soon at the age of 54, that is not what he will be remembered for. Gwynn achieved more in his lifetime than most could ever dream of and his legacy will live on long after we are all gone.
Stories and good cheers filled the air at Petco Park as tens of thousands gathered hours before the public memorial service began. Tony played his last major league game in 2001, but he can still fill a stadium and bring a grown man to tears.
Play-by-play commentator for the Padres, Ted Leitner, began the tribute as speakers included baseball hall of famer Reggie Jackson, longtime Aztec assistant coach Mark Martinez and Gwynn’s daughter Anisha Nicole.
Gwynn was a dual athlete at San Diego State. He made a name for himself on the basketball court and the baseball field, being drafted by the San Diego Padres and the San Diego Clippers on the same day in 1981. Gwynn played two decades for the Padres during his Hall of Fame career, choosing to stay home in small market San Diego as opposed to making more money in another city.
After his playing career ended, Gwynn turned back to his roots in 2003 to coach baseball at SDSU. Gwynn could have taken any job in baseball for millions more than he made at SDSU but Tony was never about the money. It is fitting that Gwynn ended his career coaching at Tony Gwynn Stadium, the field that he renovated himself in 1999 and the field where the city of San Diego fell in love with him.
The night ended emotionally, lights were dimmed and focused on the number 19 cut into the grass as the song Amazing Grace played. Spectators viewed from nearby sky risers as everyone felt like one family.