While born in Los Angeles, Tony Gwynn is San Diego. He’s Mr. Padre. He’s the essence of America’s Finest City. Gwynn went to college at San Diego State, was drafted by the then San Diego Clippers, was drafted by the San Diego Padres, and played 20 years with the Padres. He’s the owner of eight batting titles, a .338 career average, and 3,141 hits. Without Tony Gwynn, the Padres aren’t the team they are now. He is their claim to fame. Now, he is entering his 10th season as head coach of the San Diego State Aztecs.
Under Gwynn, the Aztecs have 264-277. He’s not lighting the world on fire, but he did help develop Stephen Strasburg. He’s had a decent career after taking over for his own former coach. Gwynn has battled through cancer, through players signing with the MLB rather than playing college ball, and through weight issues. He’s fought through every issue and overcame. Tony Gwynn is a winner, but could he ever be a successful coach on the Major League level?
The most obvious fit for him would be hitting coach. Gwynn’s career batting average ranks him 17th all-time. He is among players like John McGraw, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Joe Jackson with career averages above .330. His ability to understand defensive alignment and make the ball do what he wanted off the bat put him in elite company. He may not be as famous as some of the slugging Hall of Famers, but his offensive talent makes him a strong candidate for teaching hitting. However, being successful on the field doesn’t always translate to success as a coach.
Coaching requires leadership. It requires building relationships, gaining buy-in, and turning talented players in successful players. Does Gwynn have what it takes to do so? He is building that characteristic with the Aztecs, but the leap from college to the pros, as players can attest to, is a difficult one. If anyone could do it, Tony Gwynn surely could. He would almost certainly have a job waiting for him with the Padres if he wanted it. But for now, he seems to be enjoying his managerial gig with San Diego State.
What do you think? Could Tony Gwynn make a good coach on the Major League level?