In a testament to his greatness as a baseball player and person, thousands of fans flocked to Petco Park throughout the day yesterday to show their respect to the greatest Padre to ever put on the uniform. Tony Gwynn‘s impact in was felt with tributes throughout different stadiums around baseball. However, his is presence in San Diego goes beyond the baseball diamond and it was reflected by the large numbers of fans that came out to pay their respects at his statue just beyond the fence in centerfield.
Listening to the legendary Padres play-by-play man Dick Enberg talk about Gwynn in a post-game tribute was emotional, but there was something that stood out more than anything else when he said, “Tony Gwynn was truly ours.” Gwynn was truly ours.
When the Padres’ organization opened the gates yesterday at the stadium, the response from fans showed how much Tony Gwynn was truly San Diego’s treasure.
There was not a San Diego Padres fan or San Diegan, for that matter, who was not affected by Gwynn in some capacity. Many have a story to share whether it was the beauty of his swing, his laugh, or his positive actions around the city. It was just incredible the way Gwynn helped reshape the fans love of baseball, the Padres, and the joy of being a San Diegan.
Will Laws, a writer for MLB.com, captured reactions of several fans paying their respect. Marek Miller, a fan handing out Gwynn’s baseball cards, was quoted by Laws, “That was the best moment you could have as a San Diego Padre fan. It wasn’t just that he stopped and talked to us and signed our stuff for us. He stopped and asked questions to me, an 8-to-10-year-old kid. That was Tony in a nutshell.”
Padres pitcher Robbie Erlin was quoted , ““He won’t get overshadowed here or in the baseball community. That’s what really matters.”
Miller’s story was one many from from fans who got the chance to meet Gwynn throughout his 30 years as a Padre and San Diegan. For those of us who had the chance to watch number 19 comb rightfield at Qualcolmn Stadium or meet him person, he affected us in a way that is hard to explain, but it was magical. So, when the news of his passing was reported yesterday morning, it felt like we all lost a part of us. Gwynn’s statue will forever remain at Petco Park, but his smile, his swing, and his genuine goodness as a human being will last forever.