The day was as sun splashed as an afternoon baseball game in the summer. Tony Gwynn smiled and laughed with fans Tuesday as he spoke at a press conference set up in Petco Park’s right field seats that serve as the Park at the Park.
Because Gwynn played all 20 seasons of his Major League career in San Diego, there was only one city of fans the Padres outfielder needed to share the moment with.
This was Mr. Padre’s reward for staying married to San Diego through the thick and thin of an up-and-down franchise that has stabilized under owner John Moores. He could have left for more money, but he wouldn’t have been able to share the moment on an afternoon like this one in the middle of the winter — outdoors at a baseball park.
“When phone rang this morning, it all kind of hit me at once,” Gywnn said of the call that announced he and Cal Ripken Jr. will enter the Hall of Fame together in July. “I’m excited about it because it gives me a chance to toot the horn of the contact guy. The guy who sprays the ball around the yard, gets on base and scores a run.”
Gwynn finished his career with 3,141 hits, eight National League batting titles, a .338 career average, a .394 average in 1994 and 15 All-Star Games.
He was joyful as he basked in the sun except for one moment when he was asked to reflect on what his late father would have felt about his induction into the Hall of Fame.
Gwynn turned silent as he choked up.
“I think he’s pretty proud today,” he said before a long pause to collect himself again. “I think he’s pretty darn proud.”