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Graffiti artists painting tribute mural for Tony Gwynn in San Diego

David Brown
Big League Stew

Graffiti artists are painting a mural on a wall in San Diego to help ensure the remembrance of Hall of Fame ballplayer Tony Gwynn, who died in June at 54 years old after having cancer. The mural is being painted on the Undisputed Downtown gymnasium facing 16th and J streets, and the project requires at least 50 bottles of black spray paint just to prime the 40-foot wall. The gym, run in part by Joel Rocco, is about three blocks from Petco Park in the East Village, a gentrifying neighborhood.

ABC-10 TV in San Diego got a preview of the mural (that's a computer graphic you see in the video) and talked to the creators. The work is personal to the artists belonging to a group called the Wildstyle Technicians because all of them loved Gwynn and are fans of the San Diego Padres. Another is a cancer survivor.

Saratoga Sake ... says that personal connection is a big reason he wanted to paint a mural so Gwynn's legend will be seen by both locals and visitors all year round.

"He's larger than life," Sake said. "Hopefully it will bring smiles to people's faces 'cause Tony Gwynn had a huge great smile."

The artists have painted dozens of murals across the county over the past several years. They hope this one will also serve as a history lesson for local kids who never got the chance to see "Mr. Padre" himself on the field.

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The wall measures about 40 by 18 feet, Rocco says, and is "in a secure spot" to discourage vandalism. Undisputed's owners had been looking for a reason to paint over the regular graffiti on the gym's outside walls, and already had started to update when the idea of a Gwynn tribute came up. The Wildstyle Technicians have painted other projects inside of the gym already, so, onsidering all of those factors, it was a natural spot.

"I had the chance, maybe three or four times on the golf course, to meet Tony Gwynn," Rocco told The Stew in a phone interview. "What a gentleman he was. So down to Earth for someone that famous. Super humble."

Rocco also said the gym is doing a $19 membership special this month to honor Gwynn, who wore uniform No. 19.

Once it's complete, the mural will become a must-visit spot for baseball fans, or anyone interested in one of San Diego's all-time favorite sons.

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David Brown is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rdbrown@yahoo-inc.com and follow him on Twitter!

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